Monday, July 9, 2018

Idaho Democrats Announce Shift from "Unwieldy" Caucuses to State-Funded Presidential Primary for 2020

Betsy Z. Russell writing for the Idaho Press:
Idaho Democrats will switch to a presidential primary, rather than a caucus, for the next presidential election in 2020.  
The party announced the change during its state party convention Saturday at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.  
“We’re looking to move to a system that we have a primary, so that everybody can vote,” said Van Beechler, the party’s first vice chair.  
Party Chairman Bert Marley said, “It’s been obvious the last couple presidential elections that the caucus system for us, in most parts of the state, is pretty unwieldy.”
And it is exactly that "pretty unwieldy" part that has been a common bond among those states that have either moved to primaries or have signaled that such a move was on the way for the 2020 cycle. Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota all made the change in 2016, the legislature in Utah added funding for a presidential primary to the budget, and Democrats in Nebraska and Washington have both voted on or voiced support for a transition from caucuses to a primary.

In each case, the administrative and financial burdens to the state parties were raised in the argument for a switch to a primary. Participation was up enough in caucus states across the board to nudge up administrative snafus and with it, the attendant disgruntlement with the process from those who were able to withstand long lines and longer meetings.

Idaho was no exception to this trend. But then, even with a state-funded option available to the state Democratic Party, the organization stuck with the caucuses for 2016. Much of that decision has to do with the on-again off-again nature of the presidential primary in the state. The state Republican Party opted for early March caucuses for the 2012 cycle in 2011, and Republicans in control of the Gem state legislature followed that by eliminating the presidential primary option in 2012.

Idaho Republicans reversed course for 2016. The party passed a resolution to trade in the once-utilized caucus system for a primary in February 2015, and then the Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation to re-establish the primary in spring 2015. This left Idaho Democrats little time to adapt while devising a delegate selection plan due to the Democratic National Committee by the early parts of May 2015.

But even with that excuse, Idaho Democrats have never had a post-reform relationship with the presidential primary that has been on the books in the state. The historical reasons have been twofold. First, the primary was always scheduled late, often after many presidential nomination races had been resolved. But second, the primary was always open, which the parties at state and national levels have tended to resist.

Those historical reasons for opting into the caucus system despite a state-funded primary option are now gone in Idaho. When state Republicans re-established the primary in 2015, it was scheduled for March (earlier in the process than had traditionally been the case) and gave the state parties the option of allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary.

As Idaho Democratic Party Chair Bert Marley recently said at the state convention:
“This is the system that’s in place — we’re [Idaho taxpayers] paying for it, we’re going to use it.”
And with that, add Idaho to list of states moving toward primaries for 2020.

No comments: