Friday, May 23, 2008

Democratic voters face already decided race

Presidential candidates, including Texas inmate, on ballot

Express Staff Writer

On Tuesday, May 27, Democratic voters will be faced with the curious task of selecting a presidential nominee from a field of candidates from which the party already chose in Feb. 5 caucus proceedings.

At the Blaine County Caucus, held at the Community Campus in Hailey, a record crowd chose to send 10 delegates for Sen. Barak Obama and one for Sen. Hillary Clinton to the state convention in Boise in June. At that convention delegates will be selected to send to the national convention in Denver in August.

But, still, the Democratic primary ballot includes Clinton, Obama and Keith Russell Judd, a Beaumont, Texas, prison inmate who won't get out until 2013.

Asked how a federal prisoner could qualify for the ballot, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told the press, "We got conned." The state recently eliminated the requirement for candidates to gather signatures. Now they only need to fill out a form and pay a $1,000 fee. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Keith Judd sent forms and checks to 14 states, but only Idaho put his name on the ballot.

The issue remains, however, that Democrats have already selected delegates to represent their preferred presidential candidates, and those choices were made in caucuses throughout the state in February.

"It's true that the decision was made already, that during the caucus Idahoans decided which delegates to send to the state convention," said Idaho Democratic Party Southern Field Director Randy Johnson.

Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Hansen said that because the state is holding a primary election anyway "it has always been the case that we just keep them on the ballot."

"It doesn't influence the delegate selection process" at the state convention, he said. "It's possible that it would influence the superdelegates, but it can't influence the delegates that were selected at the caucuses."

Superdelegates are delegates who are not committed to supporting a particular candidate. Four have been selected, and one will be selected at the state convention.

The system of delegate selection via caucuses is complex, and the seemingly moot point of voting for Democratic candidates on the primary ballot does complicate things slightly, Hansen conceded.

"But Idaho is a little more straightforward than many states," he said.

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