Doug Ricks

Doug Ricks

BOISE — Voters in a presidential primary would have to choose a party before the election under a bill that was introduced Tuesday.

The House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to print the bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg. The bill would change the law for a presidential primary to mirror state law for other primaries, under which the deadline to change one’s party affiliation or become unaffiliated is set at the last day a candidate may file to run in the primary. The presidential primary filing deadline is in December, three months before the March presidential primary.

Unaffiliated voters would still be able to declare a party affiliation at the polls and vote in their primary of choice; however, the change would prevent someone who is registered to one party from switching their affiliation at the polls. For example, someone who is registered as a Democrat could not become a Republican after the deadline to vote in the Republican presidential primary.

Idaho passed a law creating a separate March presidential primary in 2015, and the attorney general’s office ruled recently that current law setting affiliation change deadlines doesn’t include the presidential primary along with other primary elections, which are held in May. The bill contains an emergency clause, meaning if it passes it would take effect as soon as Gov. Brad Little signs it. That means it could be in effect in time for this year’s March 10 presidential primary.

”If you’ve got friends who are in the category of switched over, you might want to get them to switch before this takes effect,” Ricks said.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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