Friday, June 1, 2007

Keep party primaries open


Ask Idahoans to describe themselves and the words "independent" and "private" will pop out.

Ask them who they voted for in the last election and they are likely to say it's no one's business but their own.

Ask if they vote strictly for Republicans, Democrats or others and they'll say, "I vote for the person, not a party."

Some Idaho Republicans want the state's voters to give up their independence and privacy by forcing them to register—as a matter of public record—as Republicans, Democrats or others before being allowed to vote in a primary election.

Primary elections in Idaho are open. Voters are limited to voting in only one party's primary, but do not have to choose which until they are inside a very private voting booth.

The U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to the debate when it ruled in 2000 that states can't force political parties to associate with those who don't share their beliefs. Republicans will meet this weekend to decide whether to sue the state to end open primaries.

Why? Some suspect there are rats in the woodpile—non-Republicans who cross over in primary elections to decide which candidates will run in a general election.

But that door swings both ways. With open primaries, there's no way to prove undue influence by crossover voters. And with Democrats and others a tiny minority in Idaho, the chance that crossovers exert major influence is miniscule.

Closing primaries would force Idahoans to choose between fiercely private independence and voting in primary elections. That's a choice they shouldn't have to make.




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