Primary elections can be confusing, especially if you have not voted in a primary election for a while or perhaps you are voting in the Idaho primary election for the first time. In Idaho, political parties use primaries to select a slate of candidates to run for office during the general election. With the primary election coming up on Tuesday, May 17th, now is a great time to clear up some of the misconceptions about primary elections in Idaho.

The main purpose of the primary election is to help political parties select their candidates. Because of this purpose, voters have two choices. They may select one political party’s ballot, or they may choose to vote on non-partisan races only using a non-partisan ballot.

Political parties are allowed to choose some parameters regarding who may vote in their party’s primary elections including whether to hold a closed or open primary election. Election officials and poll-workers do not have authority regarding whether a primary is open or closed. In the Gem State, the Republican Party has a closed primary, meaning only registered Republicans may request the Republican Ballot. Other political parties in Idaho, including the Democrat Party, have open primaries which means voters are not required to register a party affiliation to vote on their Party’s ballot.

Because the Idaho Republican Party has a closed primary, if a voter is affiliated with a party other than the Republican Party, then they cannot vote in the Republican Party Primary on election day. However, if a voter is unaffiliated, they may choose to affiliate with a political party on election day and request that party’s ballot. Aside from the Republican Party, voters may select another party’s ballot on election day due to the open nature of their primary election rules.

Many Idaho voters who consider themselves independent may wish to vote for candidates from different parties for different offices. This is possible during the general election, but not during the primary election. Since voters are helping to select a party’s slate of candidates, they may only vote on one party’s ballot during the primary.

For more information, you can visit the Secretary of State’s website. You can also search for your county’s website for more specific information about your local races.