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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Idaho Open Primary Lawsuit Progresses

The Idaho Republicans' challenge of the state-mandated open primary[1] is proceeding toward a trial in U. S. district court in Boise (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa, 08-cv-165). The party wants to be able to block non-Republicans from voting in GOP primaries.

All of the Gem State's major Republican politicians are opposing the lawsuit and have not helped raise money to pay for the evidence gathering and the expert witness (politicians do not usually favor changing the system by which they were elected). The suit's proponents have nonetheless come up with the funds and have now submitted their evidence to the state, which is the defendant. The state has 90 days to study the GOP's evidence, take depositions, etc., and produce any evidence of its own. The Republicans will then have 60 days to review any such state evidence. District judge B. Lynn Winmill will then schedule an evidentiary hearing (or trial), after which he will issue his ruling, possibly in September.

Former state Senator Rod Beck, one of the suit's top advocates, says, "... our evidence is strong and compelling." The GOP's expert witness is Dr. Michael Munger, chairman of the political science department at Duke University and an expert on political parties (and the 2008 Libertarian nominee for governor of North Carolina). Munger reports that 50-plus percent of self-identified non-Republicans have voted in at least one Republican primary.

The suit's advocates have proposed a new primary election law, a draft of which has been submitted to state legislative leaders and the state defendants. Notably, this legislation-- which has not been introduced in the legislature-- features party registration, but it also provides a way to avoid the upheaval of a statewide voter re-registration. In the two primary election cycles following the bill's passage, each already-registered voter would check a party box at the polls on primary day. A registered voter who did not vote in either of those primary cycles would then be designated an independent.

Each party, to be sure, would be authorized to invite independents to vote in its primaries.

This lawsuit has the potential to prompt a landmark ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court.


[1] The state does not register voters by party, and each voter picks a party on primary day.


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