Idaho open primary supporters submit final signatures for verification

by Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun
May 1, 2024

Supporters of the Idaho open primary ballot initiative are turning in their final signatures to local county clerks for verification today after building up what they believe is a comfortable margin to qualify for November’s upcoming general election.

Supporters of the open primary initiative gathered 94,795 signatures statewide and have met the signature gathering requirements in 20 legislative districts, Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said Tuesday afternoon.

“The fact that nearly 100,000 Idaho voters have signed this petition speaks to a widespread frustration with our elections system and agreement across party lines that something needs to be done to make sure that all voters have a voice,” Mayville said.


What is a ballot initiative?


In Idaho, a ballot initiative is a form of direct democracy where the voters of Idaho propose and vote on their own law, independent of the Idaho Legislature. An example of a ballot initiative is the 2018 Medicaid expansion ballot initiative led by Reclaim Idaho, which more than 60% of Idaho voters voted for in November 2018.

In order to qualify for the November election, supporters need to surpass the state’s requirement to gather signatures from at least 6% of voters in 18 different legislative districts and gather signatures from at least 6% of registered voters statewide, or about 63,000 voters in total.

As part of their final push, supporters gathered an additional 2,000 signatures at events that took place in 20 Idaho towns and communities over the weekend, Mayville said.

“There was an outpouring of support in the final stretch as people around the state realized the deadline was looming and that they needed to show up at their local signing location,” Mayville said. “(Now) we are tying up all the loose ends and making sure that every last signature gets submitted to the county clerks.”

Reclaim Idaho is a member of the Idahoans for Open Primaries coalition and is the same group behind the successful 2018 Medicaid expansion ballot initiative, which more than 60% of Idaho voters voted for in November 2018.


How would the open primaries ballot initiative change Idaho elections?


The open primary coalition hopes to qualify a ballot initiative for the November general election that would make changes to the primary election and general election. The initiative would do away with the closed party primary elections in Idaho and replace them with a single primary election open to all Idaho voters and candidates, regardless of party affiliation. The initiative would also create a new ranked choice voting system for the general election. That system is also sometimes called an instant runoff voting system. Under that system, voters would vote for their favorite candidate in the race and then have the option to rank the remaining candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated and their votes would instead be transferred to any second choice candidates voters marked on those ballots. That process would continue until two candidates are left and the candidate with the most votes would be elected the winner. Under that system, voters would still only vote one time in the general election because the instant runoff elections would be determined by the ranked choices that Idaho voters marked on their ballot.

Supporters say the changes would ensure that Idaho’s 275,000 independent registered voters would be able to vote in a primary election and force candidates to be accountable to more voters.

But opponents, including Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon, say the ballot initiative is different and more complicated than the elections Idahoans are used to voting in. Moon also said the changes reduce the influence of political parties and could lead to more moderates or Democrats being elected.

“The ballot initiative that Reclaim Idaho is collecting signatures for are complex strategies that essentially sideline political parties from the primary process, enabling Democrats, independents or even Socialists to determine your nominee for the general election,” Moon said in a written statement first posted in August 2023 that Idaho Republican Party officials sent to the Sun last week when the Sun requested an interview with Moon. “Rather than ensuring the security of our elections, Reclaim Idaho aims to complicate our electoral system with California-style voting mechanisms.”

Moon also opposes the initiative’s ranked choice voting component.

“The American Republic has long been guided by the principle of one person, one vote,” Moon said. “Ranked choice voting twists this system into something unrecognizable.”


Many open primary signatures have already been verified in Idaho


Heading into last weekend, Mayville told the Sun that 40,000 signatures from voters had already been submitted and verified by county clerks across the state.

Supporters worked to surpass the state’s minimum signature requirements because any signatures that are illegible or invalid will not be counted toward the required total during the forthcoming review by county clerks, Mayville said. Signatures could be declared invalid if they are illegible, if the person who signed is not a registered voter or if the voter’s address on the petition does not match the address in voter registration records.

Volunteers Sarah Carrie and Mark Babson collect signatures for the open primary ballot initiative on April 27 at Cassia Park in Boise. (Courtesy of Idahoans for Open Primaries)
Volunteers Sarah Carrie and Mark Babson collect signatures for the open primary ballot initiative on April 27 at Cassia Park in Boise. (Courtesy of Idahoans for Open Primaries)

County clerks will spend 60 days verifying the signatures and then return them with the results of the verification to the Idahoans for Open Primaries coalition, Mayville said. Then in early July, open primary supporters will take the signatures to the Idaho State Capitol in Boise for an additional round of verification by the state.

If supporters exceed the requirement of 6% of registered voters statewide and 6% of registered voters in at least 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts, then the ballot initiative will appear on Nov. 5 general election in Idaho. If it qualifies for the November election, it would take a simple majority of voters to approve the ballot initiative.

Mayville said open primary supporters know the job isn’t finished if they gather enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot in November. Next they will turn their attention to a campaign aimed at getting Idaho voters out to vote to pass the initiative.

“Quickly we will start the work of making sure that every voter knows about this initiative and knows about the opportunity they are going to have in November to give all voters a chance to participate in primary elections and make sure we have better choices on our ballots,” Mayville said.





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One thought on “Idaho open primary supporters submit final signatures for verification

  1. As an independent voter, I have no vote in the upcoming sheriff office position or many other local position’s that come up. The republicans (trumplicans) have already had their caucus yet they say making elections open to all might give a chance for people to vote for someone not one of ‘them’ and how ‘fair’ is that?
    You might think fairness would be the guiding light, apparently not for republicans though. They have collectively gone out of their way to insure they won’t lose. How rigged is that?
    Everyone should be able to vote for the best person for the job, whatever their party is! I hope it makes to November because I’ll be voting for this to try to make it bipartisan again.

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