The Idaho Republican State Central Committee will hold its summer shindig in McCall on Friday and Saturday. On the menu are a couple of proposed rule changes that have us concerned.
A few years back, Idaho Republicans closed their primaries, allowing only registered Republicans to vote. While this outraged many voters and politicians, the state GOP could face a real public relations nightmare if some new rule changes are enacted Saturday.
Proposed Rule Change 2013-P07, sought by the Boundary County Republican Central Committee, would strike the language that limited the primary to Republicans. Before you celebrate the potential reopening of the primaries, review Proposed Rule Change 2013-P08 submitted by Rod Beck, a regional chairman from the Treasure Valley.
It would require any candidate, incumbents included, to win a county or state Republican Party endorsement. The Secretary of State could only print the names of endorsed candidates on the primary ballot. Counties could endorse multiple candidates.
Having the GOP “pre-determine” who is on the ballot runs counter to our democracy’s entire premise of free and open elections. We, as voters, may be able to vote in the primary, but our choices would be limited to those annointed by the party. That’s not really an improvement if you only get to vote for the party’s picks.
This proposed rule could fundamentally change how candidates focus their attention. They would be less worried about the average citizen and more concerned about the 20 or so precinct representatives in their districts.
Consider this hypothetical. Legislative District 24 in Twin Falls has 22 precincts. If Rep. Stephen Hartgen, who represents the district, crossed any of these 22 precinct leaders, they conceivably could not endorse Hartgen, forcing him off the primary ballot.
We’re not saying they would; we don’t see the precinct leaders as spiteful or power hungry. But the rule change would set the stage for the few to determine who runs for office. Gone would be the citizen who decides he wants to serve his community, treks down to the courthouse and places his name on the ballot. These rules would apply to all candidates — from the governor and members of Congress to county commissioners, auditors, sheriffs and coroners.
Twin Falls County Republicans had heard rumors that such restrictions might be imposed on caucuses, so they submitted a resolution to the state GOP reaffirming “the right to participate in the electoral process is a fundamental underpinning of our Republican form of government” and that “there is no more important point in the Republican political process than the selection of nominees for public office.”
When they learned about the proposed rule change, though, they drafted a letter of opposition and currently are collecting signatures from Republican politicians across the state.
They’re absolutely right to fight this proposal. Americans must maintain their right to choose their elected officials devoid of influence or endorsements by a select few.
Members of Idaho’s GOP Central Committee have an important weekend ahead. We hope logic prevails and they vote down any changes that would restrict voters’ rights.