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Posts published in “Day: November 10, 2021”

Closed primary has to go


Comparing the Idaho legislative session this year with those I have observed over the last half century, this was decidedly the worst. Legislators variously proposed or passed unconstitutional bills, tried to make the initiative and referendum unworkable, refused to take the Covid-19 crisis seriously, shot down funding bills for no valid reason, tried to solve non-existent problems like critical race theory and generally conducted themselves like irresponsible nitwits. It does not have to be this way.

With the advent of the closed Republican primary, legislators have become more extreme. Idaho is one of the reddest states in the country. In most legislative districts, the winner of the Republican primary is the person who will prevail in the general election. Extremists just have to marshal their forces in the primary to keep electing those who continually move farther to the right on the political spectrum.

The Republican Party decided to close its primary to all but declared Republicans in 2007 in order to purge more moderate, pragmatic candidates from its ranks and that is just what has happened. When Idaho’s open primary, where any voter could request and vote the primary ticket of either party, was challenged in federal court by the Republicans, the judge quoted expert testimony that closing the primary would have the “very real and immediate effect of...producing more ideologically extreme candidates.”

The federal judge, believing that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution required it, ruled in March 2011 that the Republicans could close their primary. And, sure enough, each Legislature since that time has become more dysfunctional and untethered from reality.

So, how can we fix it? A close examination of the law indicates that our federal court got it wrong. A 2015 federal court ruling in Montana turned away a Republican challenge to that state’s open primary based on its review of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. I believe the Montana ruling is correct on the law. Now that the Idaho Supreme Court has restored the right of the people to initiate legislation, Idaho voters could pursue an initiative to restore the open primary system that served the State so well for so many years.

Another effective way to overcome the extremist-producing closed primary would be to adopt some form of what has been called a “jungle primary.” Washington voters passed an initiative in 2004 calling for candidates to be listed on the ballot with a self-described party preference. Voters could vote for any of the candidates for that office and the top two candidates, regardless of party, would advance to the general election ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this plan to be valid in 2008.

Another variation was approved by Alaska voters last year. Their initiated legislation provides for all candidates, regardless of party, to participate on a single primary ballot. The top 4 vote-getters move to the general election ballot for ranked-choice selection--the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and voters who put that candidate at the top of their list have their votes reallocated to their second choices. The process continues until one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote. This plan will likely be the subject of an initiative drive in Idaho in the next couple of years and I have committed to supporting it.

A group of veterans - Veterans for Political Innovation - has proposed a similar plan, which has the 5 top vote-getters moving to the general election for ranked-choice selection. That initiative, also, is worthy of support to fix our broken primary system.

Any of these fixes would dramatically improve to our electoral system, allowing voters to winnow out the worst candidates in the primary election and put the best candidates into important offices. Each of these alternatives would likely have eliminated Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin from the last general election and they would make it impossible for Priscilla Giddings to advance beyond the primary next year.

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served 8 years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He is currently a regular contributor to The Hill online news. He blogs at JJCommonTater.

A forgotten pandemic


Sunday is World Diabetes Day, but hold off on the celebration. It is not a day for parades, backyard cookouts or the kind of large family gatherings that go with holidays.

In fact, World Diabetes Day – created in 1991 – is not officially a holiday. It’s more of a somber reminder about a global health pandemic that has been around long before anyone heard of COVID-19. And unlike the coronavirus, diabetes doesn’t go away with a shot in the arm.

The numbers for diabetes are gruesome. More than 460 million people have diabetes worldwide and that number is expected to climb 570 million by 2030. In the United States, 34 million people have diabetes and 88 million have this ticking time bomb called “pre-diabetes,” which more often than not develops into the real thing.

November also is National (or American) Diabetes Month. The purpose is to raise awareness about what often is referred to as the “silent killer.” So, take this article as a dose of diabetes awareness from an old guy who has been through the ringer with this awful disease.

My story over the years includes a toe amputation, temporary blindness, kidney disease and heart bypass surgery. The most hurtful to my pride was losing my career at age 53. And at 71, I’m alive to tell all about it. I don’t know if it’s the grace of God, or dumb luck, but I’ll take it.

I am living proof that having diabetes is not all gloom and doom, or the equivalent of a death sentence. I play golf (walking the course), bowl in a senior league in Meridian and walk about five miles a day when I’m not doing those activities. My cardiologist thinks I’ll be around at least for another 10-15 years, which will put me somewhere around … never mind.

Others are not so lucky. People don’t die from diabetes specifically, but it’s the complications that can get you. The disease is a gateway to strokes, heart failure, kidney dialysis and amputations.

So, what does all this have to do with politics? More than you might imagine, but politicians can do little more than scratch the surface of what needs to be done.
Congress provides funding for the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health, two agencies that have been working to find a cure for diabetes. Although no cure has been found, there have been impressive gains in medications and management – enough to effectively reverse diabetes in some cases. Both houses of Congress also have bipartisan diabetes coalitions, but there’s only so much they can do in light of a soaring national debt and so much of the nation’s health focus on COVID-19.

The theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day is a good one: “Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?” One hundred years after insulin was discovered, millions of people throughout the world can’t get the stuff – or it’s simply unaffordable. Many oral medications are unavailable, or unaffordable. Even the cost of test strips for blood-sugar monitoring blood-sugar levels becomes a huge financial burden for a lot of families. Many people do not have access to diabetes education, or healthy food. For many others, the extent of exercise – a component for diabetes management – is confined to the lifting of a knife and fork.

Diabetes, in some ways, is more of a society problem than a political one. At many restaurants, single-serving sizes are large enough to feed the defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and people gobble up every bite like it’s their last meal.

It’s no wonder that obesity is on the rise throughout the United States. Food has become the new cigarettes of our time and, unfortunately, diabetes is well on track for becoming the “new” normal (Lord help us).

Things like World Diabetes Day, or National Diabetes Month, are easy to shrug off, but it’s no laughing matter. I can’t think of anything, short of a natural disaster or terrorist threat, that pose a greater threat to our health and safety than diabetes.
So, have a happy World Diabetes Day.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at