Idaho’s Republican Party has backed itself into a corner. One well-known party moderate now wants Democrats to save it from itself.

Former Republican Attorney General and retired Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones last week asked Democrats to register to vote in the Republican primary election next year to help it avoid a harsh swerve to the right.

Party extremists, although a minority in this red state, have worked themselves into a position to call the shots in primary elections that determine nominees for the general election.

Before 2007, any eligible resident could vote in the Republican primary. However, paranoia ran deep in hardcore extremists who suspected sneaky Democrats of crossing over and voting in their primary.

The unproven belief drove them to successfully sue the state, close the primary and allow only registered Republicans to vote.

The Democratic Party left its primary open.

The first closed primary was in 2011. Ten years later, Republicans are staring at the stark possibility that candidates with extreme views could oust incumbent Gov. Brad Little next year.

The party’s real problem is that it slammed the door on Idahoans who don’t belong to either major party.

In 2020, the Idaho Secretary of State’s office listed 439,906 voters as Republicans compared to just 112,411 Democrats. A whopping 308,784 listed as unaffiliated were 35% of all registered voters.

Getting Democrats to cross over is just a Band-Aid that won’t mend the Republicans’ self-inflicted injury, if it helps at all.

If moderates can’t regain control of the party and reopen its primary, only one solution exists. They must engage the power of the two-party system and quell the fires of right-wing extremism in Idaho by corralling unaffiliated voters and electing Democrats in the next general election.


“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to editorialboard@mtexpress.com.

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