Dorothy Moon, the head of the dysfunctional branch of Idaho’s Republican Party, has declared war on the Open Primaries Initiative. She’s made false claims that it will be confusing to voters, give rise to voter fraud, turn Idaho liberal, reduce voter turnout and destroy the Republican Party. The initiative is modeled after the Alaska system which worked very well in last year’s elections. Voters were not confused, there was no fraud, Republicans did quite well and turnout was not reduced. It won’t destroy the Republican Party, but it will open up the GOP primary and allow reasonable, traditional Republicans to take back control of their party.
In a September 13 press conference, former First Couple, Butch and Lori Otter, expressed strong support for the Open Primaries Initiative. They were joined by 114 other long-time Republicans who are sick at heart with what has happened to their party since the primary was closed in 2011.
Otter said he supports the initiative because it would remove control of primary elections from a small group of party functionaries. He said: “The right to vote is one of the most precious rights that Americans have. Every registered voter should have the right to weigh in on choosing our leaders. Independents, including a lot of military veterans, have been excluded from having their say because of the closed GOP primary.”
He continued: “The system worked well in Alaska in 2022. The idea that the system will hurt the Republican Party was debunked by the election results. The Republican Governor and US Senator were both re-elected and Republicans had ‘one of their best statehouse showings ever,’ according to the Cato Institute.”
Lori Otter said she was concerned about the GOP leadership’s marginalization of women and young people. “Taking away the State Central Committee votes of Republican women and young Republicans is a step in the wrong direction. The official party has become what the party chair calls a ‘private club’ that can purge or censure those who do not follow the party line. The idea that the party can censure or discipline its own governor and other GOP officeholders is counter to the basic principles of our party.”
Former Lt. Governor Jack Riggs said that traditional longtime Republicans in North Idaho “have largely been pushed out of the GOP. The party apparatus has been taken over by bullies who don’t seem to have any interest in addressing the real issues confronting the state. They dwell on national culture war issues–villainizing librarians, doctors, teachers and traditional conservatives–while ignoring roads, infrastructure and public schools. The Open Primaries Initiative will change all of that, as they well know. It threatens their unholy grip on power and that’s why they are fighting so hard against it.”
Regarding the issue of administering elections under the initiative, Chris Rich, who served 13 years as Chief Deputy to the Ada County Clerk and then 8 more years as elected Clerk, said: “Idaho election officials will be able to honestly and accurately tabulate the election results under the initiative. Given the appropriate tools, the clerks can manage most any election. We are every bit as capable as the election officials in Alaska and Maine, both of which have ranked-choice voting.”
Former Senator and Idaho Veterans Services Administrator Marv Hagedorn said, “the initiative will give all veterans the right to vote in the primary election. Almost half of America’s veterans consider themselves independent voters. They can’t participate in the GOP primary unless they register as Republicans and the present party leadership is trying to make it harder for folks to do that. Veterans have earned the absolute right to vote in any election they so choose.”
Seems to me that Butch, Lori and the 114 other traditional Republicans have made the better case. The Open Primaries initiative is not a liberal plot to take over the state, but a reasonable step toward restoring responsibility and pragmatism to governing in the Gem State. We have suffered being the laughingstock of the nation for long enough.