The freedom-loving Idaho GOP compromises voter privacy

If you want to vote in the May 15 primary election, you’re going to have to give up some of your privacy to do it.

And for that, you can thank those sworn enemies of meddlesome government: the Idaho Republicans.

As you undoubtedly know by now, the Republicans went to court to win the right to keep you riffraff from crashing their private party primary. If you want to vote with the Republicans on May 15, you have to register with the party.

It doesn’t stop there, however. You don’t have to register with the Democrats to vote in their primary, the electoral cotillion to the GOP’s big dance. But if you do vote in the Democratic primary, that will be a matter of public record, reflected in the poll books.

That wrinkle in the rules hasn’t gone unnoticed by Wayne Hoffman — the head of the (beware of oncoming irony) Idaho Freedom Foundation. Hoffman was among the Republican activists who pushed for this members-only primary. Now, he has hinted that he might use the paper trail to track up reporters’ voting tendencies.

I know I’m not going to get any sympathy from some of you. Some might find it poetic justice to see journalists agonizing because of something public records might reveal about them. (And yes, I can see where there could be journalistic value in using the poll books to check up on a candidate who claims to be a lifelong Republican or a lifelong Democrat).

That’s my point, though. This rule opens the door to all kinds of snooping, and this doesn’t just pose a problem for reporters.

Anyone who works in nonpartisan city government — from the mayor and City Council on down — is subject to scrutiny. Same for anyone who works in the court system. Or on a university campus, in a public school or for a state agency.

And that doesn’t even take into account the largest voting bloc of all: those truly independent Idahoans who believe their politics are nobody else’s damned business. People who don’t want to share their partisan leanings with their neighbors, their fellow parishioners, their co-workers and their bosses.

Let me run through my options — because I think they help illustrate why this primary is problematic for so many Idahoans:

• Registering as a Republican and crashing the GOP primary has a certain jab-in-the-eye charm.

But here’s one catch: I think registering with a political party ought to mean something, and shouldn’t be done capriciously.
Unlike my old friend and Statesman co-worker Hoffman — who was involved in the GOP primary suit and once worked on the staff of Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Sali — I really am an independent. I 'm not a straight party ticket voter, and I’ve never registered with a party, even in my pre-newspaper days.

Now, party registration is out of the question. Aligning with a party invities skepticism from politicians and candidates, readers and viewers — so most journalists correctly avoid the practice.

• I could register as an independent, and vote in the Democratic primary. But, just like registering as a Republican, this vote becomes a matter of record.

• I could vote as an independent and vote only in the (uncontested) nonpartisan judicial elections. Yippee.

• Or I could stay home and not vote. After interviewing more than 60 candidates for spring endorsement editorials. And after, undoubtedly, writing one of those obligatory Election Day editorials urging you all to get out and exercise your right to vote. Seems a tad hypocritical.

Here’s the Statesman’s policy: “Newsroom employees are encouraged to participate in the democratic process, i.e. voting in the general election or other non-partisan elections. If they choose to participate in partisan political events, including closed primaries, and it creates an appearance of a conflict of interest, they may not be allowed to cover politics or government.”

That makes my decision easier, but no more palatable. I’ll vote in the judicial elections. I believe it’s important to vote where and when you can — and it’s one way, as one voter, that I can send the message that I cherish my right to vote.

So there you have it. A little less hunting for you, Wayne. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

I sympathize with my fellow journalists. But I share the frustration of every Idahoan who has seen their right to vote — and their right to privacy — compromised by their state’s prevailing political party.

If you’re angry about this mess of a May primary, don’t forget that you get to vote, in total privacy, in November. You also might want to remember who did this to you.

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Good one KR.

"registering with a political party ought to mean something, and shouldn’t be done capriciously."

Capricoiusly? Isnt' that what politics is all about? Back to the 18th Century politics is competition and mean.

Who cares?

We all think (know) you and other media writers are liberal/Democrats or certainly leaning that way. Big deal if the voting history shows that.

I'm surprise the company policy is "may not cover politics or government". IF a writer is fair and unbias and has editorial oversight- there should not be a problem. That policy sucks! Just like this online filter of words like doc ument. S U C K S.

Oh poor KR.......

Boo Hoo. As Jimmy Carter once said..."life is unfair". Calling yourself an independent makes your nose grow even longer. I think this new system is great as long as it keeps liberal democrats like you from voting in Republican primaries.

Ironic that our right to

Ironic that our right to privacy in voting is eliminated but the legislators rights in regard to conflict of interest is private. Just the typical double standard applied by this legislature. This is not less government; it is more government and even more intrusive government. Enough is enough and more than past time to get government out of our private lives.

I'll vote but never again as an R.

I had to give it up myself...

The shift to the extreme right, and especially the corporate (greed is good)/religious (we will tell you what's moral) right, appalls me. Add in the movement away from the William Buckely type of conservative intellectualism towards the Sarah Palin bumper sticker nonsense ("Drill Baby, Drill") and it becomes a no-brainer.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

Running scared

Ir never ceases to amaze me how much credence you guys give Wayne Hoffman simply because he use to work with you. Since his organization keeps their donor list secret its pretty fair to say, until he can prove otherwise, that Hoffman is nothing more than a paid lobbyist for conservative causes. He talks about disclosure yet he is disingenuous in his actions and you guys keep lap dogging up to him. Grow a pair.

And yet you hide behind a

And yet you hide behind a fictious name; at least you know his name and what his philosophy of government is. Double standard at play again. Who's paying for your comments. He is entitled to his opinions and efforts just as you are and just as you are entitled to not state who are and who you represent. Nothing but double standard being displayed by all.


I didn't see your name in your post!


I'm confused; I would say it's pretty obvious I'm not a paid lobbyist like Wayne Hoffman, nor do I claim to head a non-profit tax exempt "foundation" like Hoffman does. As to first part of your comment "tpskbi" how do we know you are not Wayne Hoffman himself using an alias to make himself look better.

who is it

moreso they have changed their "public information" sight so a person has to register with them to access the information.

"Who's look?" or " Who can we ask for donations?"

Thanks Statesman for reproducing that same information on YOUR site- one good Stateman has done.

KR - let me help you with this....

just think of this as "Card Check" and you'll feel so much better.

Last time I looked "card check" hadn't passed as law

Why? Because it is also a ridiculous proposal that takes away a person's secret vote.

the lawsuits are going to be really interesting

the first time someone is fired or not hired based on the way they voted.

The whole 'public record' aspect of this did come up when it was being discussed, but it wasn't until recently that someone actually said they were planning to use those records to intimidate people.

I wonder how Ben Ysursa feels about his office being used in this manner.

Just think of this as a group of union thugs, er uh, leaders....

Setting policy and practices - that should set your liberal mind at ease.

I can't believe

I cant believe that you're still whining about the fact that republicans want to be able to chose their own candidates with out having to worry about the influence of disingenuous democrats voting in the republican primary to try to influence the outcome. By the way separate primarys is how it is done in almost all states. Nothing new here. Like you said you can vote in secret in the general election so vote for whoever you want. Voter rolls have been public knowledge forever so your point is tiny and whiney. I believe you're po'd that your chosen philosophy has so little influence in this overwhelmingly conservative state that you resort to childish name calling and stomping your feet to make your point. We moved here in part to get away from all the liberal bias and and nonsense consuming my home state.


Funny how the RepubliCANTS want secrecy on ethics probes but not for voters. Again they believe they are privileged. They only believe in small government when other people suffer but want to use the power of big government to further their own agenda.

Let the "Freedom" witch hunts begin!

The privacy issue is my main concern about this stupid law. The fact that "freedom" hypocrites like Wayne Hoffman will use it for a witch hunt against specific groups really ticks me off. First, it's journalists...which he will get away with because nobody has sympathy for them. Next, it will be government employees. And what about all those people on state and local commissions who are supposed to be independent?
And the Freedom witch hunts begin....

Voting is a Constitutional Right

The right to vote is a fundamental Constitutional right, and The Lewiston Trib called this policy,referring to an earlier version, a "Voter Alienation Bill" on March 27, 2007. There is no reason for a government record of ones party. We could just have a public choice at the time of voting, and let poll watchers, if any, keep the record. That keeps it the party's business, not our neighbors and employers. Personally, I don't even think the public request should be required, but the Supreme Court has said otherwise. And WHY should there be a Democratic Party record, if the Party has not requested one be kept?

Yes, this will impact many more people than journalists, and the use of this information isn't for the political party, it is for other improper purposes. Perhaps we need to add "political affiliation" to our anti discrimination legislation.

My vote is not the Governments Business

hee hee

just add the words, "Political Affiliation".

I don't think we should be

I don't think we should be giving special groups special privileges. We should not add the words "closed primary."