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GOP delegates approve rule limiting primary voter affiliation

by KELCIE MOSELEY-MORRIS Idaho Capital Sun
| July 17, 2022 1:00 AM

Delegates at the Idaho Republican Party Convention in Twin Falls on Friday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a rule that would disqualify certain voters from voting in the party’s primaries.

The proposed rule was drafted by Branden Durst, a former Democratic legislator who joined the Republican Party in 2020 and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction in the May primary.

The rule will go into effect if it is approved by the Idaho Republican State Central Committee when it meets in January. The voting membership of the state central committee includes members of the state executive committee, county chairmen, state and state youth committeemen and legislative district chairmen, according to the party’s bylaws.

The Idaho GOP closed its primary election starting in 2012 so that only registered Republicans can vote for the candidate they want to advance to the general election. Under the law, political parties are permitted to make their own rules for a voter to become affiliated.

While the rule was amended on Thursday by the delegates serving on the convention’s rules committee to exclude language allowing county and legislative district central committees to vet and endorse candidates for office, the delegation voted 357-309 to put the language back in.

The rule as amended passed with 403 delegates voting yes and 265 voting no. When the vote tally was announced, the room erupted into loud cheers.

The proposal outlines how a voter can be disqualified from registering with the Idaho Republican Party, to include those who:

Affiliated less than 12 months before the next primary election held in an even-numbered year

Disaffiliated with the Republican Party at any time in the past 39 months

Financially supported more than one candidate of a different political party for office less than 25 months before the primary

Affiliated with any other political party less than 25 months before the primary

Voted in a primary or caucus for any other political party less than 25 months before the primary

Durst acknowledged during debate that he used to be a Democrat and said he left mainly over abortion issues.

“They want to come into our party. … They want to pick our quarterback,” Durst told the delegates. “This is an opportunity to nominate people to represent this party, which is the most sacred thing this party does.”

A delegate from Legislative District 3 speaking in opposition to the idea said he agreed that central committees should be able to recommend candidates and thought crossover voting was a problem, but he did not think the rule was a good solution. He called it a public relations disaster and said it would drive away Democratic voters who might consider the Republican Party.

Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chairman Brent Regan, whose central committee has a full vetting and endorsement process for the primaries and extensively advertises its list of recommended candidates, spoke in favor of the rule’s passage.

“(Crossover voting) is a real thing … It is something that actually happens, and we need to have a defense against it,” Regan said.

He added that the rule as passed will go back to the rules committee for further discussion and will then be considered for rejection, approval or modification by the Idaho Republican State Central Committee.

“So we aren’t agreeing now that this will be the rule, this is just a suggestion going forward,” he said. “If we don’t pass this now, I guarantee other counties will pass those, including Kootenai, and we will present it at other meetings as well. So this issue is going to come before us sooner or later.”

The Idaho Capital Sun can be found online at idahocapitalsun.com.

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