Guest Opinions

Idaho’s closed primaries, caucuses have to go

John Gannon
John Gannon

Idaho political parties: Open your doors and implement policies at your conventions that allow all Idahoans to vote and participate in selecting the most important political leader of our country, the president of the United States, and state-elected officials. Reject the voter suppression tactics inherent in the closed primary and caucus, and increase voter turnout.

Around the country, and more and more in Idaho, we see pedantic political controllers try to control the selection of our president and other leaders by using closed primaries and difficult caucuses. In New York many voters and even the children of a presidential contender were denied the right to vote by the closed primary and a law that requires early party registration. Utah, Nevada, Maine, Hawaii, Kentucky and many other states saw caucus problems this year that were rampant and deny the elderly, disabled and those with scheduling conflicts the right to vote.

But in conventions this month, Idaho political parties can begin to set an example, open doors and reject the voter suppression tactics inherent in the undemocratic caucus and the exclusive closed primary by taking stands against them.

According to polling and voter registration records, a plurality of Idaho voters are independent, with Republicans second and Democrats third. But the March Republican presidential primary was closed to anyone who was not registered Republican. That means that the $2 million price tag was paid by hundreds of thousands of Idahoans who were barred from voting. On May 17 we had another Republican closed primary. Unfortunately, in a one-party-dominated state, final state election decisions are often made at this time, and hundreds of thousands of Idahoans, including unaffiliated voters, again have the doors closed — but pay for it. At least let the unaffiliated voters participate.

The Democratic Party, to its credit, has for years used an open May primary to select state candidates. Any registered voter can participate. There is no voter suppression. But unfortunately, the party has used a caucus method to choose its presidential winner, in part because of pressure from national party manipulators.

The long caucus procedure means people who have to be at work can’t participate. Military people on duty can’t vote. Parents with children stay home. Older people can’t stand in long lines and sit for hours. The disabled can’t participate. People who travel for work and those who have to drive long distances are discouraged from voting. People with health issues cannot attend. Students with important exams the next day are excluded. There is no absentee ballot procedure.

Closed primaries funded by tax dollars and inconvenient caucuses are unconscionable, even if the outcomes would be the same, because the right to participate is the issue, not the result. This year’s elected delegates have the power to initiate change at their party conventions this month. I hope they do so.

Democrat John Gannon is the Idaho state representative for District 17, Seat A.