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Open Primaries - Top Four Primary Ranked Choice

Beware of Top-Four Primary and Ranked-Choice Voting Petition

Good laws are vital!  They shouldn't start with a "Knock, Knock. Who's there? Confused. Confused Who? Confused about the initiative, … just sign here."

Initiatives are often presented by strangers with a smile and a clipboard, asking you to change state law. The stranger's goal is to get your signature on a petition to place an “Initiative” on the ballot. A petition currently circulates to place an initiative on the 2024 General Election Ballot, proposing two distinct changes and one subtle change to Idaho Election Laws.


This raises red flags, providing enough reason to say “no.” The initiative claims to address “Top-Four Primary and Ranked-Choice Voting.” If unfamiliar, just say no. The group behind the initiative, known as “Idahoans for Open Primaries,” relies on trust, suggesting the change is needed for Open Primaries. They count on you not asking important questions or reading the nineteen (19) pages of proposed legislation.


What does this group know? They know many citizens will listen to a short pitch and not confront the petitioner. They know that if you had the time and were willing to fully explain the proposal, you'd be left with your head spinning. They also know that nearly 31% of voters are not members of a political party, limited in their ability to participate in primaries. This petition isn't about allowing “unaffiliated voters” the right to vote in partisan primaries. It's about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


If the petitioner suggests this is about “Open Primaries” or allowing everyone to vote in primaries, that is not full disclosure. The petition's short title is as close to a description as possible: “A measure to: (1) Replace voter selection of party nominees with a Top-Four Primary; (2) Require a Ranked-Choice Voting System for General Elections.  Don’t fall for the petitioner’s placards, signage, T-Shirts, hats and clipboards that highlight “Open Primaries.” The petition is selling you the tip of the iceberg.  If you don't know what is really in the petition, DO NOT SIGN!


The Top-Four Primary eliminates political party nominations, grouping all primary candidates, regardless of party, for each elected office on the ballot. The top-four candidates are then placed on the General Election Ballot. The Top-Four could all be from one party, meaning four candidates could qualify for the General Election. I've never heard any citizen ask for top-four primaries or Ranked Choice Voting.  Unaffiliated citizens complain they're not allowed to vote in the Republican Closed primary. If that's the concern, why complicate our primaries with such a radical change to nominations? A simple initiative to open all primaries would offer a solution and not confuse the electors. So, why complicate it? Their goal is to give the Idaho Democrat Party an increased opportunity to gain traction in Idaho without addressing their own party platform. If you want an open primary, do not sign this complex petition with ulterior motives.


To make matters worse, this petition changes the general election, often identified as “Ranked Choice Voting.” That is the term used in the Title of the Initiative, but nowhere in the initiative does that term exist. The initiative uses the term “Instant Runoff Voting.” This complex voting system requires each voter to rank candidates in order of preference. The results are counted by eliminating the candidate with the least votes and rerunning the tabulation with the remaining highest-ranked candidates.


This eliminates the need for a runoff election, which Idaho does not require. This is a different issue than the system used in the Top-Four Primary. Requiring primaries to have runoff elections could be a simple solution. This should not be included in one initiative. While many citizens would prefer that primaries require a majority, that could be advanced in a separate question without confusing the voter by combining multiple issues into one initiative.


By combining three different election issues into one, this initiative creates a multiple-choice situation, but the vote requires a yes or no to the three embedded issues. Initiatives are not well vetted and create changes to Idaho Code, similar to the legislature. However, legislative actions must pass a full public hearing in both the Idaho House of Representatives and Senate. There's full debate in the committees and on the floor of both houses before delivery to the Governor for a signature. Something this complicated should not be a citizen initiative. I suggest you not sign the petition, and if you are so inclined, be sure to read the entire 19-page initiative.  


Lance W. Clow, Representative

Legislative District #25 








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