Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Independents unwelcome?

Idahoans of independent mind, who hate being labeled, pigeonholed or stereotyped, are likely to be shocked when they go to vote in upcoming primary elections.

The Idaho Republican Party sued the state and won its quest to throw out the state's open system in which voters chose, within the privacy of the ballot box, the party in whose primary they would vote.

The Republican Party argued that open primary elections violate the Constitution by depriving Republicans of the right to freedom of association. In other words, party bosses feared that independents and Democrats were crossing over to vote in Republican primaries and potentially affecting the outcome of primary elections.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled for the plaintiffs.

The state has not appealed the ruling. Republican legislators decided to force the state to foot $100,000 of the party's $143,000 in legal fees. Unless an appeal filed by groups representing independent voters succeeds in overturning the ruling, any voter who refuses to register as a Republican will be barred from voting in that party's primary.

That pulls the rug out from under some of the 37 percent of those who listed their political affiliation as independent in a recent survey by the Boise State University Public Policy Institute. The number exceeded the percentage that listed themselves as Republicans or Democrats.

Independents say they look at the issues, look at candidates' platforms and believe their party leanings are nobody else's business.

The consequences of closing the Republican primary remain to be seen. But one thing's for sure. Truly independent Idaho voters won't like it; it's not in their nature.

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