Idaho has never required party registration before the current election cycle, which to date leaves some 742,000 registered Idaho voters unaffiliated with any party. Voters wishing to participate in the May 15 Republican primary will have to join the party.
Voters can designate their party affiliation as Republican, Democrat, Constitution or Libertarian, or select no party affiliation, by filling out a new voter registration card, said Blaine County Elections Clerk Amy Rivkin. New legislation in 2011 required voters to declare a party affiliation unless a party submitted documentation exercising an option to open primary elections to unaffiliated voters. The Democratic Party did include the option, but the Republican Party did not.
After the Idaho Republican Party chose to strike presidential candidates from the May 15 primary election in favor of the March caucus, for the first time Idaho voters will not see the category on the spring primary ballot.
Rivkin said other changes in voting are that the county, not taxing districts, is managing all polls this year, and filing deadlines posted on the Idaho Secretary of State's Office website (www.sos.idaho.gov) have changed. Candidates will still have to register through their political subdivision and voting will take place in familiar locations throughout the county, with some locations changing for some voters as poling places are being made more uniform with the ultimate goal of not conducting voting at city offices or schools.
Registered voters can find a link called "Where do I vote?" on the Elections Department section of the county website, www.co.blaine.id.us.
"In three clicks, anyone, anywhere in the valley can find where to vote," Revkin said, adding that some precinct numbers and names have changed, but most voters will find that their polling location has remained the same.
Very few Blaine County voters have filed their party affiliation so far this year, Rivkin said, but voters who haven't chosen one of the four affiliations will be considered unaffiliated at the May 15 primary election. The short list of voters who have declared their affiliation are Republicans who participated in the March 6 Republican caucus when the party voted to support Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention, which will be held Aug. 27-30 in Tampa Bay, Fla.
At the May primary, ballots will include a GOP primary contest for sherfiff, a special Ketchum City Council race and non-partisan elections such as judicial races and, depending on precinct, bond or levy elections. All registered voters may vote on non-partisan issues during the primary.
According to the Secretary of State's Office, the new party registration requirements have "no effect on general election procedures." All voters receive exactly the same ballot at the general election Nov. 6 and may vote for any candidate whose name appears on the ballot without regard to political affiliation of the candidate or the voter.