Writings and observations

Election alternatives

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

I love playing golf, but I hate hitting irons.
One day, I heard somebody talk about the key to better iron play. “Get rid of the darn things,” he said. I did, and my golf game improved dramatically with my odd assortment of fairway woods.

The same principal can apply to elections in Idaho. Get rid of the darn things – at least as they are now. General elections at the top of the ticket have all the suspense of old communist Russian ballots, where only one name counts – the one with the “R” label. Democrats have become irrelevant. But as bad as general elections are, primary elections are worse. The voting turnout in late May is disgustingly low – especially with the closed primaries. But the open primaries also were a disaster in terms of low turnout.

Secretary of State-elect Lawerence Denney has said he favors eliminating primary elections and letting the parties figure out how to nominate their candidates. Actually, he’s on the right track because it’s ridiculous for the state to be spending money on primary elections that draw less than 20 percent of eligible voters. Since some 80 percent of the people have made it clear they don’t want to exercise their right to vote, then maybe they should lose that right. If nothing else, the howls of protest would offer some entertainment value.

A better idea is to find something else that does work. Oregon voters rejected an interesting idea that is used in Washington and some other states: End closed primaries and open the elections to all comers. The top two vote-getters for a given office would square off in the general election.

That means, two Republicans could be running against one another in a general election – which often would be the case in Idaho. If the top-two format were used in Idaho in the governor’s race, Gov. Butch Otter might have been going against Republican State Sen. Russ Fulcher instead of Democrat A.J. Balukoff. Voters in rural Idaho – which holds all the power in elections – then would have a real choice.

Idaho is not a two-party system in a traditional sense, but there are two distinctly divided factions in the Republican Party. There is, in lack of a better name, the “Tea Party Crowd” (TPC), led by Congressman Raul Labrador and at least half of the state’s House leadership. That group has a name for the other side: RINO – “Republicans in Name Only,” with Otter and Congressman Mike Simpson being among the charter members. The TPC prides itself on being “traditional Republicans,” who oppose anything to do with President Obama, Medicaid expansion and government-sanctioned education standards. The RINO group doesn’t like Obama, but are friendlier to selective “moderate” causes.

Sen.-elect Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, has a bill prepared that’s similar to the one rejected in Oregon and I hope he introduces it. Burgoyne has a few other ideas – including merging the primary and general elections and eliminating party labels.

“Political parties have outlived their usefulness,” he said. “Republicans and Democrats are a net negative in my view at the national level, and that’s becoming more true on the state level.”

Coming up with a perfect system probably is not possible, but as Burgoyne says, “everything we’re talking about is better than what we’ve got, which tells you something about what we’ve got.”

And what we’ve got is only a little bit better than Communist Russia – where, I think, my old golf irons are resting in misery.

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