I am a registered Republican voter and a precinct committee officer in Ammon, Idaho. I am not able to attend the state convention this year as a delegate, but if I could, this is the resolution (or something like it) that I would propose:
“Whereas, the recent shift of the Idaho Republican Party to close primary elections has not had any noticeable effect on protecting the primary from other political parties, but has instead reduced overall voter participation by excluding all individuals who choose not to or cannot affiliate with a party; and Whereas, the goal of the primary election in Idaho should be to encourage full electoral participation and enfranchisement, in an effort to allow the Idaho people to elect the best candidates for each position; and Whereas, the primary election should be for the people and not the parties to make their electoral decisions about who is best to serve; and Whereas, a “top-two” primary system in Idaho will allow all candidates, regardless of party, to run against each other in a primary election, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election; and Whereas, the top-two system will encourage the greatest facilitation of thoughts, ideas and debate in a primary election, because it will force every candidate to try for every single vote, regardless of political ideology; and Whereas, the top-two system will bring to the general election the best two candidates for each elected position, making the general election much more attractive to all voters, thereby increasing voter participation and bringing a more vibrant and active debate of ideas; and Whereas, the top-two system will dull the increasing problematic pattern of hyper-partisanship in government, and will make ideas more important than political party affiliation in Idaho’s elections; and Whereas, the top-two system will not, as is feared by some, do away with political parties, as all candidates will still be able to choose to associate with a particular party, and parties will still be able to show their support for their favorite candidates; Be It Therefore Resolved, that it is the official position of the Idaho Republican Party to eliminate the closed primary system and instead support a platform position which supports a top-two primary election system in the State of Idaho; and Be It Further Resolved, that the Idaho Legislature is directed and encouraged to amend Idaho Code, Title 34, Chapter 9, to repeal the closed primary and enact a top-two primary system in the State of Idaho; and Be It Further Resolved, that the Idaho Secretary of State is directed and encouraged to enact rules in the State of Idaho governing the operation of a top-two primary election system in the State of Idaho.”
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I long for the day that our elections are focused on picking the best person for the job — the one that articulates the best ideas for the state of Idaho. I am less and less convinced that party affiliation means much compared to an actual, open and free exchange of ideas with all people of every political stripe, and a competitive primary which leads to an actually meaningful general election. I am convinced that a top-two primary system would move us in that direction.
Do you agree with me? If so, share this idea with your local Republican Party officials. We may not be able to change the primary system this time around, but every good idea has to start somewhere.
Sean Coletti is an attorney for Hopkins Roden Crockett Hansen and Hoopes PLLC in Idaho Falls and also serves on the Ammon City Council.