Day 2: Idaho Republicans debate voter restrictions for primary elections

Idaho Republican Party Chair Tom Luna spoke to the convention delegates on July 15, 2022. (Photo by Ruth Brown)

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

On the second day of the Idaho Republican Party’s convention in Twin Falls, party members voted to further restrict who may vote in the GOP’s closed primary elections.

The rule change, sponsored by Branden Durst, recent candidate for superintendent of public instruction and former Democratic legislator, addresses so-called “crossover voting” in the Republican primary. 

Should the state central committee approve the rule, voters wouldn’t be eligible to participate in future Republican primaries if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • The voter has not affiliated at least 12 months prior to the next primary election in an even numbered year
  • The voter has disaffiliated with the Republican Party at any time in the last 25 months
  • The voter in the last 25 months has financially supported more than one candidate affiliated with another party
  • The voter in the last 25 months has financially supported any party other than the Republican Party
  • The voter in the last 25 months has affiliated with any party other than the Republican Party.
  • The voter in the last 25 months has voted in a primary or caucus process affiliated with any party other than the Republican Party. 

The rule would not apply to new voters who registered less than 12 months prior to the next primary election.

Durst lost the the three-way primary race to Debbie Critchfield in May. Critchfield ousted incumbent Sherri Ybarra. After the loss, the Durst campaign Twitter account stated Democratic primary crossovers “disrupted the primary and many establishment candidates encouraged them. There is no honor in victory when you need the other team to get you across the finish line.”

The only elected office Durst has held was when he was a registered Democrat.

In his testimony Friday, Durst acknowledged he left the Democratic party, but that being a Republican has to “mean something.” 

“They want to dilute this party and they want to pick our quarterback,” he said about voters who crossover.

Durst argued only party members should vote in the primary “who are committed to staying Republican, not just Republican every two years.”

Opponents to the rule proposal argued that this language would deter voters from joining the Republican Party.

The rule now goes to the GOP state central committee for final approval.

Endorsements

The proposed rule also included an amendment to allow local county central committees, legislative district central committees and state central committees to determine a candidate’s political affiliation and grant endorsements. 

The Rules Committee initially struck down the amendment, but it was brought back during the general session.

The delegates voted 357-309 to add the section on endorsements.  

The heated arguments about candidate endorsements came after the Bonneville County Central Committee pushed back in May against GOP Chair Tom Luna over endorsements. Luna filed the lawsuit in his capacity as chairman, against Bonneville County Republican Central Committee for making what he characterized as unauthorized donations to non-county level candidates. The May lawsuit called it a “blatant disregard” for statutory obligations. 

Throughout the convention, those opposed to Luna passed out campaign signs regarding the lawsuit. A resolution demanding the Idaho Republican Party end the lawsuit didn’t make it out of committee.

The rule proposal on future endorsements passed in a 403-265 vote. All approved rule changes go before the state Republican central committee for a final vote. Delegates are scheduled to vote Saturday on Idaho Republican Party leadership for the next two years. Luna faces a challenge from Rep. Dorothy Moon.


<strong>Ruth Brown</strong> | Producer
Ruth Brown | Producer

Ruth Brown grew up in South Dakota and her first job out of college was covering the South Dakota Legislature. She’s since moved on to Idaho lawmakers. Brown spent 10 years working in print journalism, including newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press, where she’s covered everything from the correctional system to health care issues. She joined Idaho Reports in 2021 and looks forward to telling stories about how state policy can impact the lives of regular Idahoans.

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