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State of the State address, 2020

The Idaho Legislature begins its session Jan. 6 at the state Capitol building in downtown Boise.

BOISE — Those wishing to vote for a particular candidate in March’s presidential primary should declare their party now — the ability to switch could soon be gone.

Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, introduced a bill in the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday that would eliminate a loophole in Idaho’s election process that allows voters to switch their party affiliation on Election Day.

“You can actually be a Republican and on the day of the presidential primary election … you can affiliate democratic party and vote for your favorite Democratic candidate,” Ricks said.

Lawmakers in 2011 allowed parties to close their primaries to only registered party voters. Republicans opted to close their primary while Democrats did not.

Most elections in Idaho require voters to choose their party by the filing deadline for candidates. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney told committee members Tuesday that the attorney general’s office notified Idaho last year that the state’s current presidential primary law does not include such a deadline, and voters may switch on Election Day.

Ricks’ bill attempts to end that exemption and require voters to register on the filing deadline for presidential candidates or about 90 days before the election.

The bill also includes an emergency clause that would make it effective immediately following Gov. Brad Little’s signature. Since candidates for the Republican primary on March 10 were required to file by Dec. 11, voters would not be able to change their affiliation once the law is signed.

“If you have friends that are caught in the category of switched over, you might want to get them to switch before this takes effect,” Ricks said.

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