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Senate Bill 1371 — Primary elections, presidential (-1)

Senate Bill 1371 — Primary elections, presidential (-1)

Parrish Miller
February 27, 2024

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1371 would consolidate all primary elections on the third Tuesday in April, and consequently impose limitations on political speech during legislative sessions. The filing for the election period is similarly shifted to earlier dates in January. 

Rating: -1

Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?

Senate Bill 1371 would consolidate all primary elections in Idaho on the third Tuesday in April. There are many political implications to this change outside the scope of this analysis, but there is also an element that impacts free speech. 

Under Section 67-6602, Idaho Code, "electioneering communication" is defined in part as being "any communication … that unambiguously refers to any candidate; and is broadcasted, printed, mailed, delivered, made or distributed within thirty (30) days before a primary election. …"

"Electioneering communication" is a category of political speech (and therefore free speech) that is subject to numerous regulations and reporting requirements.

This bill would move the primary election much closer to the typical end of the annual legislative session. As a result, communications referencing a legislator who is both in session and a candidate in the upcoming primary election could be considered "electioneering communication" and subject to these government infringements on the right to free speech.


Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?

The fiscal note for Senate Bill 1371 suggests that the bill would result in “savings” of “the approximately $2.7 million that it costs the State of Idaho every 4 years when a presidential primary election is held on a different date than down ticket races.”

This fiscal note misstates the reality of Idaho law as it stands today. House Bill 138 of 2023 repealed the presidential primary. There is no separate presidential primary established in Idaho code to be combined with the regular primary election. 

With or without this bill, there is only one primary election date in Idaho. 


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