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'They want to interject their own values into the Republican party': Branden Durst discusses May primary crossover voting

Branden Durst discusses his Idaho GOP Convention idea to clamp down on people signing up to vote Republican, who aren't really Republican.

BOISE, Idaho — At the Idaho GOP Convention last weekend, 13 resolutions - or ideas Republicans would like to see become rules going forward - were passed. 

The party touched on everything from no support for any abortion to unequivocal support for Israel. The 208 touched on one of the resolutions Monday, the crossover voting resolution put forth by Branden Durst. 

The idea was to clamp down on people signing up to vote Republican, who aren't really Republican, like Democrats crossing over just to have a say in the Republican Primary Election. 

To limit the crossover from happening, Durst believes a voter should not qualify as a Republican if …

  • They joined the party less than a year before the next primary election held in an even-numbered year.
  • They removed themselves from the Republican roles at any time in the past two years. 
  • They donated to more than one candidate of a different political party within two years of the primary.
  • They were a member of any other political party within those two years.
  • They voted in a primary or caucus for any other political party over that same time span. 

These rules would not apply to new voters. 

The reason for these new requirements, or what the majority of those delegates believe was happening, was the infiltration of the Republican Primary this past May. 

The number of registered Republicans jumped this past spring. Back in January, there were 531,420 registered Republicans in Idaho. Democrats accounted for 134,000, with about 310,000 unaffiliated. 

Then, along came the idea of Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, Priscilla Giddings, Dorothy Moon, Raul Labrador and even Branden Durst, running for statewide offices on the Republican ticket. 

By April, just two weeks after the deadline to switch parties, that number of registered Republicans went up by about 15,000 voters. However, the Democrats only dropped by about 15,000, which means most were jumping in from the unaffiliated side of the pool, where that number dropped by about 7,000.

A bigger influx of Republicans happened between April and July, to the tune of 31,000 new Republicans and 28,000 fewer unaffiliated voters. 

So, is it crossover, or just joining?

It was a complaint made by Branden Durst almost immediately after he lost his primary bid to be the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He lost because of the votes of the not-real Republicans, which is why in just his second Republican Convention, he spear-headed this plan to make it more difficult to participate in the Republican Primary. 

His idea got a lot of support, he says, because he's not the only one who thinks it's a problem:

Branden Durst: "The problem is that those who do not share the values of the Republican Party as espoused by its platform are choosing to vote in the Republican primaries and with the intention of nominating candidates that don't reflect the Republican platform. I look at it like a team, like a sports team, you don't want the other coach picking your quarterback, you want your coach picking the quarterback and the same is true in a political party. It's a club, it's a group. They have defined rights to say who's in the group and who isn't."

Brian Holmes: "So, are you basing this on the fact that a lot of people joined the Republican Party prior to the May primary?"

Durst: "I don't think it's just those people that joined. I mean, there are those that have been around for times beyond just that. There are those who have affiliated as Republicans for many election cycles, who do so not because they share the values of the Republican Party, but because they want to interject their own values into the Republican Party that are antithetical to the Republican Party, but then they go vote for Democrats in the general election. I think that's really the test, because then it just demonstrates that they weren't really acting in good faith. They were doing something to try and mitigate what they probably consider their own losses in terms of an ideological disposition, but I don't think that serves the Republican Party well, and I think most of the Republicans feel the same way, and that's why we made this change."

Holmes: "In a state like Idaho where we have nearly a million registered voters, and as of July, 525,000 are registered Republicans, it is a Republican-dominated state, so if they want their voice to be heard, they feel maybe they should be able to have a say in who runs as a Republican, because we all know if there's an 'R' by the name in Idaho, chances are you're going to get elected."

Durst: "That's true and I don't blame them for having that opinion or that feeling, but I think what's missing is the perspective of the party, which again is an organization that has a constitutional right to decide who associates it with and who associates with it, and so that's where the disconnect is at. This isn't an election, this is a nomination process. This is how we pick who's going to be on our team, whose going to represent team red. It'd be no more fair to them to have a voice in that process as it is for U of I to have a decision on who starts at quarterback for Boise State."

Holmes: "Are you worried about alienating voters, because you're setting up such a strict process when it comes to registering and voting in primaries?"

Durst: "I really don't think the requirements are all that strict. It's no secret I was a Democrat. I would have been eligible to vote in the last primary. I would have been able to vote in the prior primary. What we want is, we want committed Republicans participating in our process, that's what we want, even if, and we don't really, were not even going to put a litmus test on ideologically what part of the party they're in."

Holmes: "I was going to say, because it sounds like that's what it is. It sounds like you have to believe this and this only."

Durst: "Yeah and that's why the rule doesn't speak to where they are at. We don't actually say, you have to sign something that says, 'yes, I agree with all the party platforms.' We're not having that requirement."

Holmes: "OK, so the direction the party's going now could be seen as alienating to some moderates?"

Durst: "It could."

Holmes: "And you will lose registered voters."

Durst: "That's possible."

Holmes: "You're okay with that?"

Durst: "Yep."

Holmes: "Why is that?"

Durst: "Because, I think at the end of the day, the question is, 'why do we do what we do in May?' We do it to nominate who is going to represent the Republican brand. How do we know what the Republican brand is? The only metric we really have, or the only way we can really measure that, is through our party platform and the adherence to that platform."

Holmes: "How do you feel about the direction of the Republican Party after this weekend?"

Durst: "I love it. I'm going to be real honest, I think it's great."

Holmes: "You don't feel like it's extreme?"

Durst: "No."

Holmes: "Why not?"

Durst: "Well, because, I think it's all dependent upon where you sit as to how you see perspectives of things, right? Ultimately, I think the party is moving towards what I believe the Republican Party should really stand for."

Holmes: "You've just been elected a chairman, a chairperson, that doesn't believe the 2020 election was legitimate. You're okay with that?"

Durst: "That's what the party, what the assembled wisdom of the convention said they wanted and who would I be to disagree with that?"

Holmes: "If it's not true …"

Durst: "If what's not true?"

Holmes: "The Presidential Election of 2020, do you believe it was legitimate?"

Durst: "I think that we had an election process that was flawed. Were there improprieties, were there imperfections? Yes, there absolutely were."

Holmes: "Even though none of that has been proven."

Durst: "It absolutely has been proven."

Holmes: "Can you give me an example?"

Durst: "Sure. We know, for example, in the state of Pennsylvania, they were not requiring the statutory requirement that people sign their affidavits for their absentee ballots. They were dispensing with the requirement and still counting those ballots anyways."

Holmes: "Wasn't that accepted by the court?"

Durst: "It was, it was accepted by the state Supreme Court in Pennsylvania."

Holmes: "So, therefore it's legal."

Durst: "Well, that's a matter of judicial interpretation. I would say those things are still illegal, the court just permitted them to exist."

Holmes: "I guess that is the gist of all this, this idea of freedom, yet we want to set up all these rules, whether it's from who can vote in the primary to whether a woman has rights over her own body, and you're okay with the way that is going right now, as a former Democrat?"

Durst: "Yeah, I am. As someone who switched parties, I maybe have a level of appreciation that others don't. I'm not going to apologize for believing an unborn baby deserves to live. I'm not going to apologize for believing that Republicans should have the right to decide who their quarterback is, who they nominate for different offices to represent them in the general election. Those are the right things that we should be doing and frankly, it's incumbent on the other side of the aisle to be doing their part too, because that's how we live. That's the kind of republic that we're supposed to be and we're supposed to have a marketplace of ideas that are competing."

As for who's going to track and police this possibly policy, Durst says it would come from data already archived by the Secretary of State's Office, even those moving in from out of state. 

So, it would be a small burden, in both process and paying for it, but any extra costs would be covered by the party, Durst says. 

It's worth pointing out, these platforms that will guide the direction of the party for more than 500,000 Idahoans were decided by 750 people, who were handpicked by each county's central committee. 

These are just resolutions, not rules. There's nothing binding about them, but they are ideas that could be introduced as bills in the upcoming legislative session.

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