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Lawmakers try to nail down presidential primary voting rules

Posted: 3:28 PM, Jan 29, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-29 17:28:33-05

BOISE, Idaho — Voters can wait until the last minute to choose a political party to participate in the Idaho Democratic or Republican presidential primaries in March -- under legislation proposed Wednesday.

The House State Affairs Committee cleared the way for a hearing on the measure.

It replaces previous legislation that contained an emergency clause that would have gone into effect with Republican Gov. Brad’s Little signature. The emergency clause meant the legislation was retroactive to Dec. 10.

That would have given Idaho voters a roughly two-week opportunity to change party affiliation to participate in either the Republican or Democratic presidential primary ahead of Little’s signature.

The new legislation wouldn’t go into effect until this summer.

Democrats on the committee contended the original bill amounted to voter suppression. Democratic Rep. Brooke Green asked the Idaho attorney general for an analysis.

But Brian Kane, assistant chief deputy at the attorney general’s office, in a five-page letter to Green said the original bill “appears constitutionally permissible.”

He also wrote that the “emergency clause is within the legislature’s discretion to include.”

Despite the analysis from the attorney general’s office, the original bill was pulled from the full House and replaced with the new version eliminating the emergency clause.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Doug Ricks, said that would give Democrats time to switch back from being registered as Republicans and participate in the Democratic presidential party.

“There’s been a little of drama,” he told the committee. “We’re trying to help fix that and make things better.”

Democratic Rep. John Gannon moved to introduce the bill for a hearing.

“It’s still something that I couldn’t support because I think there’s voter suppression in it, but it doesn’t have the legal problem that the last bill had,” Gannon said.

The Republican presidential primary is likely to only have President Donald Trump on the ballot. Democrats could have multiple candidates.

Democrats allow unaffiliated voters to participate in their presidential primary, but Republicans do not.

In the regular primary in May, Democrats allow any registered voter to take part. Republicans only allow registered Republicans.

(by Keith Ridler)