Constitutions protect the rights of voters, not political parties

Veterans for Idaho Voters

By Thom Bruce (Boise) Marine Corps veteran
John Freeland (Moscow) Marine Corps veteran
Stan Hall (Boise) Army veteran
Dave Looney (McCall) Air Force veteran
George Moses (Boise) Air Force veteran
Randy Worrall (Ashton) Air Force veteran

The Constitution of the United States makes it clear that all government power is based on the will of “We the People.” The right of citizens to vote for governing officials is spelled out in several amendments to that revered document. The Constitution does not grant any rights to political parties because the Founding Fathers had witnessed the havoc they had wrought in Europe and thought they’d do likewise in America.

George Washington warned us of the dangers that parties and factions posed to our democratic republic in his Farewell Address. He cautioned that they can “become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

Idaho’s constitutional framers also declined to grant power to political parties, even though they existed when our Constitution was drafted in 1889. The Idaho Constitution states that “all political power is inherent in the people” who have “the right to alter, reform or abolish” their government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” People could not exercise that awesome power if their right to vote was restricted by a party.

The Gem State has a long history of all voters having the right to elect public officials of their choice, regardless of party affiliation. That all changed in 2011, when the Republican Party closed its primary to voters who were not registered party members. Since then, those in control of the party have consistently worked to prevent independents and others from voting in the GOP primary where over 80-percent of eventual winners of legislative seats are now chosen. Because the official party apparatus has been taken over by a narrow faction, the voting rights of many thousands of traditional, pragmatic Republicans have likewise been devalued.

Washington’s warning rings true today in Idaho where the supposed “rights” of a political party are taking priority over the power of the people to govern themselves. The current GOP chair has vowed to make her party a “private club” benefiting her faction. We are at a point where a small group of party bosses have inordinate control over important governing positions.

Those of us who stepped forward to serve in the nation’s military swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We were willing to put our lives at risk to preserve and protect the important constitutional rights of every citizen. We earned the right to vote in any state-supported election we choose, and we believe that every Idahoan should have that same unrestricted right to vote. That was an important objective of our service.

Veterans for Idaho Voters, a cross-party group of military veterans, has joined together to stand up for voting rights–to give every voter the right to take part in choosing our leaders. The Open primaries Initiative will do just that–allowing every registered voter to vote in all elections, instead of restricting participation to just the privileged few.

Furious efforts are being made to derail the Open Primaries Initiative with arguments that simply don’t make sense. The opponents are desperate to keep the initiative off of the 2024 general election ballot because they do not believe in equal voting rights for all Idahoans.

Signing the petition will only put the initiative on the ballot for the general election, where Idaho voters will choose whether or not to adopt the reform. What is there to fear from letting the people decide? Perhaps it is a fear of losing the power to skew the electoral process in their favor–the very thing that George Washington wisely warned against.