Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Idaho Senate Passes March Presidential Primary Bill

Idaho got one step closer to bringing back a presidential primary on Tuesday, March 3. By a 23-11 vote, the Idaho state Senate passed SB 1066.1 The measure would reestablish a presidential primary election in the Gem state, but schedule it to coincide with second Tuesday in March school elections instead the May position it has been consolidated on with other primaries for state and local offices.

Democrats in Idaho have traditionally selected and allocated delegates to the national convention through a caucuses/convention system, but when Idaho Republicans followed suit -- abandoning the May primary for March caucuses for the 2012 cycle -- the Republican-controlled legislature eliminated the May presidential primary.

The bill to revive the presidential primary now moves to the state House, where at least one representative and member of the Idaho Republican State Central Committee, Ronald Nate (R-34th, Rexburg), has already spoken out against the move.2 How widespread that opposition is in the House remains to be seen. The Idaho Republican Party recently passed a resolution to support a shift back to the primary from caucuses if the legislature is able to pass a bill.

1 Five Republicans joined all six minority party Democrats in opposition to the bill.

2 Rep. Nate had the following to say on SB 1066 in the Senate hearing (via Betsy Z. Russell at the Idaho Spokesman-Review):
Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said he was speaking not as a state representative but as a Republican Party official, a current Idaho GOP central committee member and the past rules committee chairman. “Nominating presidential candidates is a party function,” Nate told the Senate State Affairs Committee. “The Idaho taxpayer should not be forced to pay for Democratic, Republican or other party’s nominations. … With current budget priorities like education and transportation in question in Idaho, we should not be spending another nickel and certainly not another $2 million to help political parties do their work.” 
Nate said the Idaho GOP in January approved an absentee voting process for its presidential selection caucuses that he said would address concerns about some members, from military members to the elderly, not being able to participate.
Similar arguments were made on the floor of the state Senate when the bill was being debated.

Rep. Nate was also the chair of the 2012 Idaho Republican Caucuses and helped draft the rules that governed them.

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