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House Bill 322 — Party change before a presidential primary

House Bill 322 — Party change before a presidential primary

Lindsay Atkinson
January 20, 2020

Bill description: HB 322 would change when Idahoans already affiliated with a certain political party could change their affiliation ahead of a presidential primary election.

Rating: 0

Analyst’s Note:

Though HB 322 does not fall within the metrics of our bill rating system, the Idaho Freedom Foundation is concerned with the bill’s emergency clause, which is retroactive in application.

HB 322 would require that currently affiliated Idahoans, who wish to change their political party affiliation before a presidential primary, must do so 90 days before that primary. Currently, Idahoans can change their party affiliation up to the day of the vote, whether they are already associated with another party or if they are unaffiliated. This bill changes the affiliation deadline for those currently associated with a party to be the same as “the last day a candidate may file.” But under this bill, those currently unaffiliated “may affiliate with the party of [their] choice by filing a signed form up to and including election day.”

The emergency clause associated with this bill would put it into immediate effect, which in turn would make it discriminatorily retroactive. 

If this bill goes into effect, it would mean that certain currently affiliated voters in Idaho would not be able to vote in the 2020 presidential primary of their choice, because they already missed the deadline to change their affiliation. Under this bill, in order to vote in the March 10, 2020, presidential primary, voters would have had to change their party affiliation back on Dec. 11, 2019 — a month before this bill was even introduced. 

This retroactive application would most affect currently affiliated Democrats, Libertarians, and the like who want to vote in the Republican primary, since Republicans in Idaho hold primaries closed to just their party.

The basic point of this bill — to establish a deadline for which Idahoans can switch their party affiliation ahead of the presidential primary — is not an idea with fault. It is the decision of each party whether to hold an open or closed primary, and thus the decision of the party whether or not the deadline has significant impact.

It is the emergency clause that faults this bill, by removing the ability of Idahoans to change their party affiliation ahead of the March 2020 primaries, without notice.

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