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Rexburg forum discusses Open Primary Initiative, allows people to hear both sides of the arguments

REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI)- The Rexburg area Chamber of Commerce hosted an open forum on the continuing debate on the Open Primary Initiative and Ranked Choice voting. The forum took place in Rexburg City Hall and in the City Council chambers.

As open primaries could be a part of Idaho's political future, many attended the debate to learn more about what both sides had to say. If passed, the Open Primaries Initiative would open Idaho's primary elections so that any registered voter, regardless of politIcal party, could participate. It would also introduce Ranked Choice Voting as our voting format. In favor of the initiative was Hyrum Erickson.

"Confidence in election integrity is at an all time low. Why would we want to complicate and confuse the process even more? Ranked choice voting has already been prohibited in Idaho. The Supreme Court has ruled that open primaries are illegal, and now we have a well-funded, dark money initiative process that is telling Idaho to ignore the laws and ignore the courts. They want to upend our elections. This would be a nightmare for Idaho," Nate said in her closing arguments during the debate.

Against the initiative was Maria Nate.

"I'm a Republican. 70% of the registered voters in Madison County are Republicans. I am pretty confident that Madison County will continue to be a safe Republican district for the foreseeable future. But there's 30% of the people in Madison County that deserve to have their voices heard. Even if I disagree with them and I do, I'm not a Constitutionalist. I'm not a member of the Constitutional Party. I'm not a Libertarian. I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party. I'm not a Democrat. I am a Republican. But those people deserve to vote. And our republic is stronger when they are heard," Erickson said.

Some of those in attendance shared how they felt the debate didn't get to the crux of the issue.

"My opinion has not changed to what's happened here today, because I think that they're talking about the wrong issue," Steve Oakey said. "The issue that we're debating here today, which has generated so much passion, was originally instigated by the fact that the Republicans, as a private party, closed off the primaries, to and, you know, an open choice, basically, and thus restricted an open opportunity for everybody to vote in the primaries. In other words, the Republicans wanted to create a purity test that closed off to those people who they may have disagreed with. And what was going on here is simply a demonstration of people trying to correct a problem that complicated an issue. And the solution is even more complicated. And that's what we're arguing over."

Senator Doug Ricks from the Idaho Senate shared how while he appreciates the efforts to find solutions he feels it is more of an internal republican issue.

"There are some things that may be advantageous with this, but there's other things that I don't like personally. And I do think within our party there are some things we can do to try to eliminate some of the contents and without having to go to this extreme, on the ranked choice voting," Senator Ricks said.

After the debate Erickson shared, "I think the Open Primaries Initiative will give us better leadership and will make elected officials more responsive to all the voters in the state. And it returns power back to the people."

Nate echoed her closing arguments as she said it would only lead to more voter confusion.

"I feel like it's very misleading to the voter. They're not being transparent with what the initiative means. They are still calling it an open primary when it is not. It's a top four ranking of all of the candidates, not just based on what their affiliation is, which is going to create all kinds of transparency problems, voter confusion. I think we should have simpler elections, not more complicated elections," Nate said.

Erickson says the initiative will lead to a stronger republic allowing for more people to have their voices heard. Nate disagrees and says it will lead to voter exhaustion and make it harder to have election transparency.

If you would like to see more on our past coverage of this debate you can find out more on what ranked choice voting is here. What those against the system and initiative has shared here, and what Reclaim Idaho and supporters of the initiative have shared here.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8.


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