TWIN FALLS • With 10 months left until the general election, Idaho needs nearly a quarter-million residents to register to vote, if the state is to boast the same number of registered voters it had during the November 2008 election.
That year, which saw the election of President Barack Obama, nearly 79 percent of Idahoans age 18 and older had registered by the time polls closed. But if a presidential vote were held today, only about 64 percent of voting-age Idahoans would be prepared to go to the polls.
Certainly, more Idahoans will be encouraged to register as what should be a hotly contested election between Obama and a GOPcandidate plays out.
Idaho is now about 126,000 registered voters shy of its November 2008 mark.
But consider this:Idaho has grown since then. To get 79 percent of Idaho’s 18 and older population registered, the state needs an additional 242,943 people to sign up by the end of this year’s election.
It’s cause for some concern as the state heads toward its first major election cycle under a new rule that closes May’s Republican primaries to only GOP-registered voters.
For the first time, all Idaho voters — regardless of if they registered this year or decades ago — must declare some political affiliation when they show up for this May’s primary election.
The Secretary of State’s office estimates that 742,000 currently registered voters were not affiliated with any political party as of last July.
Twin Falls County Clerk Kristina Glascock is concerned about potential problems that could arise for voters and poll workers alike this May.
“Ihope the primary closure doesn’t discourage voters,”she said. “It can be confusing.”
Under the new system, Democrats, independents and even GOP supporters, should they choose to, can still vote on the Democratic ticket. But only registered Republicans will be allowed to pick up the GOPballot.
Previously, Democrats and independents could help pick which Republican candidates made it past Idaho’s traditionally larger GOPtickets and on to the primary election. That rankled the state’s Republican leadership, who said the open primary skewed the party’s picks and pressed for last year’s change.
In order to keep voters informed about the new system, Glascock said county clerks across the state and their staffs will undergo additional training in late February, as the state continues to educate the public on the new primary process.
Bradley Guire may be reached at 735-3380.
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Hitting the Polls
Idaho needs more than 125,000 people to register as voters just to keep pace with the number of residents who were registered during the 2008 election. Here’s a glance at the Gem State’s voting population during the last three presidential elections:
2012 2008 2004 2000
Voting age population 1,156,869* 1,092,000 996,000 921,000
Registered voters 735,608** 861,869 798,015 728,085
Voters casting ballots *** 667,506 612,786 516,647
* As of July 2011
** As of March 2011
***Election Day this year is Nov. 6
Sources:U.S. Census, Idaho Secretary of State