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Name your party

The new Idaho party registration bill, Senate Bill 1258, probably is not destined to go far; though endorsed by the leadership of the state Republican Party, it may have peaked at introduction level, odds not favoring its delivery to the Senate floor. Some of the committee votes for introduction – as, if nothing else, a courtesy to state Chair Kirk Sullivan – may not be there when time comes for actual endorsement. Its odds on the Senate floor, if it did get there, would not be good, and its odds in the House probably would be worse.

If in spite of all that it did pass, the result would be an Idaho election system much closer to Oregon’s, where party registration has been in place, undisturbed and not especially controversial, for decades. There are some differences. The new bill would refer to non-party members as “independent,” while in Oregon they’re “non-affiliated. There’s also an Oregon Independent Party, which there could eventually be in Idaho too, so legislators might want to consider that.

There’s also a difference in the procedure relating to registration and party declaration, which leads to a question that for procedural reasons couldn’t come up in Oregon.

The Idaho bill says that “Any elector may designate or change such an elector’s political party affiliation or status as an ‘independent’ elector by filing a signed form with the county clerk or the poll worker on election day. The application form provided in section 34-1002, Idaho Code, may also be used for this purpose.”

It also says that “Any elector wishing to change the elector’s party affiliation or status as an ‘independent’ shall do so by completing the form prescribed in section 34-411A, Idaho Code [that is, in the previous paragraph], and returning it to the poll worker. The poll worker shall then record the new party affiliation in the election record and poll book and the elector shall be allowed to vote the political party ballot so designated.”

Okay. So how about this scenario, for those Idahoans disgusted with the idea of formally declaring a party affiliation. Joe shows up at the polling place and fills out the party declaration form, as let’s say a Republican, turns it in, is given his ballot, and votes. Let’s say further that immediately after he votes, he picks up another form, declares himself (after having been a Republican for all of three minutes) as “independent,” and turns that in to the poll workers. Would they be obliged to accept it, and re-record Joe as an independent? Would there be any record that Joe voted in the Republican primary? If so, how would the recording be done?

If this thing is going to go any further through the system, they might want to think about this.

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