In 1964, only 568 people lived in one legislative district in Nevada, while approximately 127,000 lived in another. Idaho had a similar gap in voting power, with 969 people in the smallest district and 93,400 in the largest. These types of differences in the power to choose state legislators led to the United States Supreme Court decision in Reynold v. Sims, explaining that such unfair voting power violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The Court held that the effect of each vote should be nearly the same and ordered states to redistrict so that the number of people allowed to vote for each office was roughly equal. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Warren wrote, “the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen’s vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise.” This means that when one person’s vote counts for less than another person’s, it is as bad for democracy as just blocking a person from voting. In common talk, the rule that each person’s vote should carry equal weight is called “one man, one vote.”

Today, in Idaho, every person’s vote does not carry equal weight. Idaho is a very Republican state. In every statewide election, whoever wins the Republican primary wins the general election. The Republican primary is closed to all but the party faithful. As former long-time Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa put it, “the whole ballgame’s in the primary.”

In the 2022 primary, only 32.4% of Idaho’s voters turned out to vote. When it takes only about a third of the Republican party primary voters to guarantee a win for a candidate in the general election, it’s clear that the votes of others do not count as much as that one third of the Republican Party.

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