You’ve probably heard about the open primary ballot initiative. Maybe you’ve signed it, or are thinking about it (here’s how to sign the two initiatives currently in circulation if you choose to do so).
But what would opening Idaho’s primary elections actually do?
To help eliminate some confusion, here’s a breakdown of the initiative’s elements.
What’s in the initiative?
There are two distinct but related pieces of the ballot initiative.
First is a replacement of the individual political party primary election (which are exclusive to its registered members) with a free-for-all primary election that would move the top four vote-getters to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.
The second is the implementation of a ranked-choice voting system in general elections, but not primary elections.
What is a top-four primary election?
The Idaho Republican Party has closed primary elections that only registered Republicans can vote in. If the initiative becomes law, it will bar that practice, and all candidates will run against each other in the primary.
For example, if 12 candidates from various parties ran for one position in a May primary election, the top four would move on to the general election in November. They could be two Republicans, one Democrat, and one Independent — or any imaginable combination thereof.
How would the ranked-choice voting system work?
In our current voting system, you fill in the bubble next to your favorite candidate’s name on the ballot and call it good. A ranked-choice system allows you to be a little more thorough.
Take the example from above. If you’re a big fan of the Independent candidate, you can rank them first and leave it at that. But if you would be happy with the Democrat or Republican A but are strongly opposed to Republican B, you can rank the Democrat and Republican A, and not rank Republican B at all.
Ranking a candidate qualifies as a vote for them, separated by degrees of endorsement. The ranked-choice system uses rounds to eliminate the candidates with the least votes, until the candidate with the most votes has been identified.
Sticking with our example, if a bunch of your fellow voters didn’t rank the Independent candidate, your top choice might be knocked out in the first round. But in the second round, your second choice would then be counted as your top candidate, and so on.