Capitol & State

A few voters were denied GOP ballots in last week's primaries

Because of confusion among a handful of poll workers, as many as two dozen unaffiliated voters in four Idaho counties were denied Republican ballots in last week's second-ever closed primary.

Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said the problems were in Ada, Bannock, Latah and Nez Perce counties.

Some voters were given a non-partisan ballot, while others were called and advised they could return and vote GOP, Hurst said. 

The Secretary of State's office received two complaints shortly after the polls opened May 20 from Ada County voters. The Ada County Clerk's office was notified around 8:30 a.m. and no more problems were reported, Hurst said.

"They immediately addressed it," Hurst said. "But it bothers us they didn't get it right because you don't like to see anybody turned away."

Jason Robinson, secretary of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Idaho, alerted the Statesman to the problem on Election Day. On Tuesday, Robinson said the problem was isolated.

"Unless we have additional problems reported to us, we do not see the need to proceed with any action," Robinson said Tuesday.

Hurst said about 5,000 poll workers statewide — almost all of whom only work for the county clerk on election days — were properly trained.

But a handful were confused, Hurst said, thinking that in order to vote Republican unaffiliated voters had to register as GOP by March 14. That deadline applied only to voters already affiliated with one of the three other parties, Constitution, Democratic and Libertarian.

Unaffiliated voters may chose their party on Election Day under Idaho closed primary law, which was passed after the Idaho GOP won a federal lawsuit in 2011. Only the Republicans close their primary, by rule; the other three parties allow all comers to participate, regardless of whether they are registered in another party or unaffiliated.