Here's a sneak preview of our Friday editorial.
Kermit Kiebert of Ponderay, a former Democratic state senator, voted in the May 15 Republican primary, supporting GOP legislators facing right-wing challengers.
Margie Watson — who once served as mayor of Parma, a nonpartisan post — also voted GOP to support a challenger to Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth.
Corey Smith of Idaho Falls voted Republican as well, although he describes himself as an independent.
Their voting decisions are public record only because of Idaho’s new and flawed closed primary, which strips all voters of much of their time-honored privacy.
Their voting decisions are news only because these Idahoans sit on state boards that are supposed to have a mix of political persuasions.
Kiebert is supposed to be a Democratic representative on the Environmental Quality Board, which already has the four Republicans the law allows. Watson and Smith, appointed as independents, sit on the Economic Advisory Council with four Republicans and no Democrats.
It’s possible that these boards, as well as Idaho’s Commission on Aging, no longer have the party balance required under state law.
Even that isn’t clear. As Gov. Butch Otter, the state’s appointer-in-chief, told the Statesman’s Dan Popkey, “My position is they were what they were when I appointed them. But are (the boards) properly constituted? I don’t know the answer to that.”
It is unfair and misguided to read much into one year’s primary voting. Quite possibly, appointees such as Kiebert, Watson and Smith are RIVOs —Republicans in Voting Only.
They did what Idaho voters have done for years, and without fear of making news for it. They voted in the primary races they considered most important in their communities. There is nothing sinister about that. Considering the state’s historically dismal primary election turnout, and this year’s record low turnout, voting is not a behavior to be discouraged.
The difference, with the closed primary sought by some Republicans, is that the secret ballot is a lot less secret. Ask for a ballot — Republican, Democratic or nonpartisan — and your request is public record. That is one troubling component of this ill-conceived primary; the mess surrounding three state boards is a resulting, unintended consequence.
Apologists for the closed primary will say these appointees got their comeuppance, and that Kiebert’s crossover vote is exactly what a public declaration of party affiliation is designed to prevent.
Except it didn’t, at least in Kiebert’s case.
And the outing of Kiebert comes at a cost to countless other Idahoans.
To Idahoans who would just as soon not have their voting tendencies made public to their customers, their business contacts, their prospective employers.
To Idahoans who cannot publicly align with a party, for professional reasons — judges, nonpartisan city officials, state agency employeers, working journalists, among others.
Oh, and to Idahoans who still think the sanctity of the polling place means something.
“Now I have a tattoo on my forehead,” Watson says of her primary vote. She’s not alone. Designed to “purify” elections and keep out the non-GOP riffraff, the closed primary allows for all manner of snooping and mischief. This may not have been the intent, but it is among the effects. Now that this fact is well-established, the Republicans’ response will say a lot about the party.