Legislation was introduced in Idaho on Friday, February 6 to reestablish the presidential primary repealed in 2012.
S 1049 would bring back the presidential primary for 2016, but under a different set up than it has existed in the Gem state before. Typically, Idaho has held consolidated primaries with the presidential primary tied to the primaries for state and local offices. During the post-reform era, the Idaho primary has fallen in May more often than not. That late date, among other factors, led Idaho Democrats to abandon the primary to conduct delegate selection/allocation via a caucuses/convention system, but on an earlier date. Republicans in the state followed suit for the 2012 cycle.
The newly introduced legislation would create a separate presidential primary and schedule it on the second Tuesday in March (March 8, 2016). For such an early date, March 8 is fairly sparsely populated at the moment. Alabama, Mississippi and Ohio are the only primaries scheduled on that date1, but Alabama and Mississippi are likely to move up a week to join other southern states clustering their contests on March 1.2 Idaho, then, would move up into a position on the 2016 primary calendar that may pay some dividends in terms of attention.
It is a strategic position, then, that this bill would have the Idaho primary aiming for. However, it is not on the same date has been discussed as a potential clustering point for other neighboring interior-west states. Arizona has already moved to March 22 and Utah has been linked to that date on more than one occasion. One question that stems from that is whether this bill may be revised at some point to move the primary in that direction.
This primary move is not without potential problems. Reestablishing a presidential primary, but creating a separate election in the process comes with a price tag estimated to reach $2 million by the Idaho secretary of state. Even if the bill passed and was signed into law, there is no guarantee that Democratic and Republican Parties in the state would shift from their caucuses processes to a primary system for allocating delegates. It was not all that long ago that Idaho Republicans reaffirmed their intention to conduct caucuses in 2016.
The assistant Majority Leader in the state Senate, Senator Chuck Winder (R-20th) has indicated that the bill and the adoption of a presidential primary faces an uphill climb.
UPDATE (2/7/15): Idaho Republicans pass conditional resolution to return to primary
UPDATE (2/12/15): Second, similar primary bill proposed in Senate
UPDATE (2/25/15): Second, similar primary bill passes Senate committee
UPDATE (3/3/15): Second, similar primary bill passes Senate
1 The Hawaii Republican Party is also slated to hold caucuses on that date as well.
2 Ohio could also conceivably move back a week to join other midwestern states that have speculatively been linked to a midwestern regional primary.
Uncertainty surrounds NC primary
Michigan Inches Toward March Presidential Primary Move
2016 Utah Presidential Primary Miscellany
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