Wayne Hoffman, the head of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, says his group has never planned to research whether — or how — reporters vote in the May 15 party primaries.
On Wednesday, Hoffman took issue with an Idaho Press Club newsletter column written by Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review — and my subsequent Saturday column — which said that Hoffman had hinted at looking at reporters' votes.
Hoffman said he has said the voting information could be valuable "from a news organization transparency standpoint," and could have informational value to readers. But he said his conservative but nonpartisan lobbying group has never planned to look for the data.
"We don't do primary election stuff," Hoffman said in a voicemail.
The votes are a matter of public record, under a historic closed primary election system sought by a group of Republican activists, including Hoffman. In order to participate in the Republican primary, a voter must register with the GOP. A voter need not register with the Democrats to vote in that party's primary, but when a voter fills out a Democratic ballot, this decision is reflected in the poll books, which is a public record.
Which gets back to the central point of my column. The public record makes this primary problematic — not just for reporters, but for anybody who wants or needs to keep their party preferences to themselves, either for professional or personal reasons.