The Next Big Win in Better Election Reform Could Come Where Voters Least Expect

ballot box
Created: 21 March, 2024
Updated: 01 April, 2024
3 min read

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Unsplash


Idaho isn't a state that gets much attention when people talk about politics in the US. However, this could change in 2024 if Idahoans for Open Primaries and their allies are successful with their proposed initiative.

The group's supporters are gathering signatures for a nonpartisan top-four primary with ranked choice voting in the general election -- a system Alaska voters approved in 2020. And, it reportedly is close to hitting its signature goal.

Idaho uses a semi-closed primary system. This gives the Republican and Democratic Parties autonomy to decide who can participate in their taxpayer-funded primary elections. 

There are approximately 270,000 independent voters in the state whose voting rights are subject to the whims of two private political corporations.

The initiative proposed by Idahoans for Open Primaries would replace this with a system that allows all voters and candidates, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, to participate on a single ballot.

The top four vote-getters then move on to the general election where voters would rank the candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority of first choice selections, a runoff is held that eliminates the last place candidate and tallies their voters' next choices.

The process continues until a candidate has over 50% of the vote. The new election system would apply to all state and non-presidential federal elections.

IVP Existence Banner

Idaho is a solid-red state. Trump carried it with 64% of the vote in 2020. Both of the state's congressional districts are held by Republicans. So, the most critical stage of the elections process is the primary.

Some may consider this and think that advocates of nonpartisan primary reform want to diminish Republican control. However, many Republicans support the switch to a Top Four system.

"The right to vote is one of the most precious rights that Americans have," said former Republican Idaho Governor Butch Otter. 

"Every registered voter should have the right to weigh in on choosing our leaders. Independents, including a lot of military veterans, have been excluded from having their say because of the closed GOP primary.”

Otter and his wife, former Idaho First Lady Lori Otter, support the initiative. They are joined by roughly 120 other current and former Republican officials who are prominent figures in the state. 

Supporters of the Top Four initiative have until May 1 to collect valid signatures from 6% of Idaho's registered voting population, which must include 6% of registered voters in 18 of the state's 35 legislative districts.

In total, this amounts to about 63,000 signatures. 

With over a month to work with, supporters reportedly have gathered over 71,000 signatures in 17 of the 18 legislative districts needed and are close to the signatures needed in the final district.  

IVP Existence Banner

“We’ve talked to independents, we’ve talked to Democrats, and we’ve talked to Republicans who are just frustrated with the direction that things have gone in Idaho this last decade with the closed primary,” said Amanda Stark of Mormon Women foe Ethical Government.

“They’re frustrated, and they feel like they don’t have a voice. People have said, ‘I don’t vote because I don’t have anybody to vote for.’” 

Mormon Women for Ethical Government is one of several groups and individuals who have joined the growing coalition behind the Top Four initiative.

If supporters of Top Four in Idaho are successful, the state will join Alaska as a model for the future of nonpartisan election reform in the US to give voters more choice, greater competition, and better accountability in elections.

Latest articles

Glenn Youngkin
The Irony of Gov. Glenn Youngkin Vetoing a Ranked Choice Voting Bill
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has said no to a bill that would clarify how ranked choice voting (RCV) is supposed to work in local elections -- which is odd considering the only reason Youngkin is governor is because of a RCV nomination process at the 2021 Virginia GOP convention. ...
12 April, 2024
3 min read
Trump and Biden Debate
If Trump or Biden Don't Want to Debate, Give The Stage to Someone Else
Major national news outlets reportedly are drafting an open letter to President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump's campaigns urging them to debate this fall. Biden has threatened not to debate at all, and Trump doesn't have a solid track record committing to debates....
10 April, 2024
3 min read
Electoral College
The Electoral College Reform the Nation Needs is Not What Either Party Wants
Nebraska is one of only two states that has a system that awards its Electoral College votes based on the popular vote in each of its congressional districts. However, there is a contingent of state lawmakers who want to change this with the support of former President Donald Trump....
08 April, 2024
11 min read
Joe Biden
Biden's Problem with Independents: His Party Is Constantly Insulting Them
Biden is connected to the Democratic Party. In fact, he is the Democratic Party. And there is no organization more oblivious to how it ignores and disrespects independent voters than the Democratic Party....
07 April, 2024
4 min read
New Campaign Launches to Ease Panic over Elections that Go Into 'Overtime'
The worse political polarization gets, the more anxiety people feel over close elections. Accusations surface about rigged processes, frustration builds when results aren't called on Election Night, threats against election workers surface, and errors in reporting are made....
07 April, 2024
2 min read
missouri state capitol
The Missouri Resolution Designed to Sucker Voters into Banning Ranked Choice Voting
There is a resolution in the Missouri Legislature that if approved by voters would ban the use of ranked choice voting (RCV). However, RCV isn't the sole subject. There is another provision meant to trick voters into supporting it. ...
05 April, 2024
4 min read