Idaho Republicans seek to close primary election



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 14 at 11:41 AM

Case goes to court Feb. 18

BOISE -- It's an issue that has divided the Idaho Republican Party for a few years now - whether or not to close its primary and only allow registered Republicans to vote in it.

The Republican Central Committee voted in favor of that closed primary system back in 2007.

Then last summer delegates at the state party convention recommended keeping an open primary.

But over the weekend, the party's central committee voted to overturn that recommendation and move forward with a lawsuit against the state.

The issue will be debated once and for all in court on Feb. 18.

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko says Republicans believe they have the right under the First Amendment to chose their own candidate selection process.

Many Republicans want the primary closed because they think Democrats and independents can switch sides - leading to skewed results and candidates who don't support Republican ideals.

"What you will exclude I suspect are those dyed in the wool, sworn for life Democrats who chose to participate in the democratic process. They probably aren't going to show up for a Republican primary and register to be a Republican, and that makes it a more fair process we believe," said Semanko.

Opponents of the closed party, including Gov. Butch Otter, say the process is exclusionary - leading to disenfranchised independent voters and creating candidates with more extreme views.

Semanko argues that point saying the Republicans are an open, inclusive party.

"Anybody that wants to be in the Republican Party can be in the Republican Party. Anybody that wants to register prior to the primary to be voting in the Republican Party is allowed to do that," said Semanko.

Secretary of State Ben Ysursa did not have much to say over the matter because of the pending court date.

But he did say that it is his job to uphold current state law, which calls for open primaries.