BOISE — Ten days later, politicians and politicos are still waiting to find out who really won — and lamenting everything that went wrong with — the first 2020 Democratic presidential caucus, held Feb. 3 in Iowa.
Could chaos like that trickle into Idaho’s presidential process this year? Probably not.
In each state, political parties select their presidential candidates in one of two ways: a caucus, during which voters gather in groups to make the choice; or by primary, a statewide election via private ballot. Then each state party takes its respective nominee to its national convention, where a final candidate is selected for the November general election.
During 2016’s presidential campaign, 11 states held a caucus instead of a primary, including Idaho for Democratic nominees.
This year, just four states are holding caucuses. Idaho is not among them, so Idaho voters need not fret about failed apps, jammed phone lines or long lines.
Following its 2016 presidential caucus, the Idaho Democratic Party State Central Committee unanimously decided to switch to a presidential primary election instead of a caucus.
“Caucuses are expensive, take a lot of resources to run and don’t enfranchise as many voters as primaries do,” said party spokeswoman Lindsey Johnson. “We’re very excited to be switching to a primary and hope this change will be better for everyone.”
Idaho’s presence in the primaries
So far, no Democratic presidential candidates have announced future campaign stops in Idaho, according to the Idaho Democratic Party.
Former Vice President Joe Biden visited Boise for a private fundraiser in August, and former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro visited Boise last February. Castro has since suspended his campaign and has endorsed candidate Elizabeth Warren.
Last month, Mike Bloomberg’s campaign announced plans to hire staff and open campaign offices in Idaho.
In Idaho’s March 21, 2016, Democratic presidential caucus, Bernie Sanders soundly defeated Hillary Clinton, winning 78 percent of the vote. Clinton received 21 percent.
Enormous turnout delayed the start of the caucus by more than two hours in Boise, as Ada County Democrats lined up around the block, some waiting up to three hours to enter the caucus held at the Boise Centre.
In Idaho’s March 3, 2016, Republican presidential primary, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won with 45 percent of the vote. Donald Trump received 28 percent and Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio received 16 percent.
Idaho primaries set for March 10
Idaho’s presidential primary for its Constitution, Democratic and Republican parties is set for March 10.
The Constitution Party has six presidential candidates, the Democratic Party has 17 and the Republican Party has six, including incumbent President Donald Trump, according to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.
For anyone not registered to vote in Idaho, the last day to pre-register to vote for the March 10 presidential primary is this Friday.
Idaho does allow same-day voter registration each Election Day at the voter’s respective polling place.
The last day for registered voters to request mail-in absentee ballots for the March 10 presidential primary is Feb. 28. Absentee ballot request forms are available at www.idahovotes.gov. Absentee ballots can also be requested in person or in writing from county clerks’ offices. A written request must list the voter’s complete name and address and the address they want it mailed to. It must be signed by the voter. Absentee ballots must be returned to county clerks’ offices by 8 p.m. March 10.
On March 10, polls are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. As with all Idaho elections, all voters will be asked to show photo ID or sign an affidavit attesting to their identification.
Closed GOP primary, semi-closed Democratic primary
While a state party can choose to select its presidential nominee via a statewide election, that does not mean all registered voters can vote in that election.
A closed primary means only people affiliated with a political party can vote in its primary election. During a general election, any registered voter can vote for any party’s candidates.
New voters can affiliate with a party at the time they register. Registered voters who want to affiliate with a party or change party affiliation need to go to their county clerk’s office or complete a form and submit it to the county clerk’s office for the county in which they are registered.
In Idaho, Republican primaries are closed, which means only affiliated Republicans can vote in its primaries. Democratic primaries are open, which means any registered voter can vote in its primaries.
For this year’s presidential primary election primary, though, the rules are a bit different.
To pull a Republican ballot, one must affiliate Republican. To pull a Democratic ballot, one must affiliate Democrat or remain unaffiliated. To pull a Constitution ballot, one must affiliate Constitution or remain unaffiliated.
Unlike a state primary, there is no deadline to affiliate or change affiliations in a presidential primary, and it can be be done up to, and on, Election Day.