State Politics

2 Idaho Electoral College electors to be replaced; federal workers barred from serving

Layne Bangerter, who chaired Donald Trump’s Idaho state campaign, will step aside as one of the state’s four electors because he holds a federal job. He works for Sen. Mike Crapo.
Layne Bangerter, who chaired Donald Trump’s Idaho state campaign, will step aside as one of the state’s four electors because he holds a federal job. He works for Sen. Mike Crapo.

Two of Idaho’s four Republican presidential electors will be replaced prior to Monday’s vote of the Electoral College because they are constitutionally barred as federal employees from serving as electors.

The process for replacing them is set forth in state law and the substitutions will not change the outcome in favor of Donald Trump.

Layne Bangerter of Melba, Idaho state director for the Trump campaign, works for Sen. Mike Crapo. Melinda Smyser of Parma, formerly a state senator and Canyon County GOP chair, works for Sen. Jim Risch. Article II of the Constitution says no person “holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.”

Rod Beck of Boise, who chaired Trump’s Idaho campaign, will replace Bangerter. Smyser’s husband, Skip, a lobbyist and former legislator, will take her place, Bangerter said Thursday. Per state law, their fellow electors, Caleb Lakey of Kuna and Jennifer Locke of Coeur d’Alene, will vote on their replacements Monday. They meet at noon in the governor’s Capitol office.

Bangerter called the change “strictly a formality.”

The state notified the electors of a possible conflict “a couple of weeks ago” when it received and reviewed official Electoral College guidelines, said Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.

“We said you need to check this out and see what you think. We’ll leave it up to you,” Denney said. He said there “could probably be a good case made” that the prohibition curtailed First Amendment rights of federal employees.

“I could argue either way, but I’m not sure that this is an issue that I would go to court with,” he said.

Neither Bangerter nor Smyser mentioned the issue Tuesday when the Statesman asked them for their reaction to intelligence reports of Russian interference with the election.

As with Trump electors nationwide, Idaho’s representatives have been lobbied vigorously, in letters, emails and phone calls, not to support their pledged candidate.

The state Republican party also has made no mention of possible replacements. Executive Director David Johnston said the party had been advised of the matter, and offered an opinion.

“Our advice was the same as the secretary of state: to err on the side of caution,” Johnston said. “Technically, it’s up to the electors. We haven’t received any resignations.”

In an email, State GOP Chairman Stephen Yates said the party “put forward the names of four electors” but had “no role beyond that point in the process.” Contingencies, he said, “are governed by statute and administered by the Secretary of State’s Office. No one can know for sure who will or will not show up until the appointed time.”

Bangerter said the involved parties were “following the counsel of the secretary of state” and implementing a contingency plan to replace them as a “precaution.”

This is not the first time an Idaho elector stepped aside for holding a federal job. Elector Sandra Patano of Coeur d’Alene did so in 2004 while serving as state director for then-Sen. Larry Craig.

“While I am unsure that this position actually qualifies,” she wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, “I can see how some may interpret it that way.”

The other three electors selected Elaine Jaeger of Coeur d’Alene to take Patano’s place.

Note: This story has been updated to correct the Trump campaign roles for Bangerter and Beck.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD