Low Turnout Shapes Idaho’s First Closed Primary

Tuesday's primaries in Idaho mark the beginning of a new way of voting in the state. The Republican Party closed its primary. That means voters must declare their political affiliation before they can cast a ballot.  Scott Ki visited polling sites in Boise and Meridian to find out how today's primaries are going. 

There aren’t many voters coming out to cast ballots in the state’s first closed primary.  Phil Mcgrane, Chief Deputy of the Ada County Clerk's Office says, "The one big thing of note is that turn out seems to be low."

In addition to low turn-out, new political lines for legislative and Congressional districts sent a few people to the wrong polling place.  Boise’s Ron Holstein is among them.  He started off at what he thought was the right polling site.   Holstein says, "For some reason they said I’m at the wrong building. So I’ll just go back over there again." 

Boise North End voter Pam Bromley continues to vote at her old polling place so she says the process went smoothly.  But she disagrees with having to declare a party.   Bromley says, "Every time I go to the voting booth I want a choice. And I didn’t have a choice this time."  That’s Bromley’s main issue in this election.  She isn’t alone.  Christopher Bevington of Boise agrees.  He calls declaring a party affiliation ridiculous.  "But since we’re allowing it I think it’s okay. I don’t know if it makes the process any easier.  And I don’t know if it might turn away some people but it might bring some people out, too."  Bevington says voting is a civic duty even if it’s just a primary. 

Clear across Ada County, Karen Strate was the first to vote at Meridian Elementary School.  That means she has to make sure things are in order at the ballot box.  She says, "I got to  be the witness that the box was empty and locked up. That was kind of fun."  For her and her husband Gene, declaring a party affiliation was no big deal.   Gene says, "You can consider us Tea Partiers,"   while Karen says, "And we really like Raul Labrador. 

The Strates are closely watching the Congressional race between incumbent Republican Raul Labrador and challenger Reed McCandless.  Jerry Morgan is another Meridian voter following that race.   He says, "We elect people to go represent us, but when they get there, they think the money that we pay in taxes is their money and they can do what they want. It’s our money and we need people to recognize that it’s ours."

Morgan votes because he says if you don’t, then you have no right to complain.  He also says he doesn’t mind declaring his party affiliation.  Morgan says that’s been the case in every state he’s lived in. 

Phil McGrane, the Chief Deputy at the Ada County Clerk’s office, has fielded questions about declaring party affiliation.   He says, "Having to select a party and make that a public decision. That’s something that many voters are willing to offer comment on.  But the nice thing is they’ve been willing to cooperate and have gone through the process smoothly and we’re getting people voted today."  Still McGrane is prepared for a long night ahead of him.  Polls close at 8 tonight and counting the ballots for Idaho’s first primary will begin shortly afterwards.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio.