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Letter from Your Elected Official: Jason Dixon

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Clerk Press Releases, Highlights, Letter from Elected Official, Newsroom

It’s 2024, which means it’s time for another Presidential Election. This time, the way Idahoans vote for their party’s presidential nominee will be very different than in 2020.

For the first time in over a decade, the Republican and Democratic Parties will hold a caucus instead of a Primary Election to choose their presidential nominee. I want to answer some questions I’ve received lately regarding the difference between an election and a caucus.

Before I get started, it’s essential that you know your party affiliation and how that will impact which caucus you can participate in. You can read more about that here.

It’s also important to note that while a caucus will decide the parties’ presidential choice, there will still be a traditional Primary Election on May 21st for state and county offices. That will be run as usual, and you can find more information about that election on our website, bannockcounty.us/elections.

Okay, back to the difference between caucuses and primary elections.

First of all, who is responsible? A key difference between the primary election and the party caucuses is who is responsible for conducting them.

Primary elections, as we think of them, are conducted under state law by the state and county using public resources. It is conducted like a typical election, using ballots and precincts to select the parties’ candidates to move on to the general election in November. In this scenario, the cost and responsibility of conducting the primary elections falls on the counties and state.

In contrast, caucuses are conducted by the political parties as private organizations. This places the burden of conducting and paying for the caucuses on the parties. It also means that the parties are not bound by state election laws in terms of how the caucuses are conducted. Without input from the state, each party determines the processes and methods they deem best based on their local and national rules.

The Republican Caucus will be held on March 2nd, and the Democratic Caucus will be held on May 23rd. For more information about how and where your party’s caucus will be held, I encourage you to visit the party’s state website (idahodems.org or idahorepublicancaucus.com).

Because the caucuses are held by the political parties as private organizations, this impacts how the state and counties may be involved with the caucuses. In previous years, when caucuses were held in Idaho, the state and counties’ involvement was generally limited to some public awareness and, in a few instances, voter registration and party affiliation. I expect our involvement to be similar this year.

I should note that the local parties have reached out to the Bannock County Elections Office for guidance on best practices. We’ve offered tips and ideas to help them run as smoothly and fairly as possible.

Can caucuses use public facilities? Yes, with some requirements.

In September, the Secretary of State’s Office shared Attorney General Opinion No. 23-03, which addressed whether public facilities (such as state meeting rooms, city halls, schools, etc.) could be used to conduct the caucuses under the Public Integrity in Elections Act.

In short, public facilities can be used as long as they are generally open to the public and all political parties are given “equal and fair access” to the facilities. A facility is not required to be made available for conducting a caucus; that’s up to the public entity in control of the facility. The AG’s opinion merely indicates that it is not prohibited and that equal access must be granted should the controlling public entity allow the use of the facility.

Additionally, if a public entity typically charges a fee to use a facility, that same fee may still be charged for facility use. However, fees should be equal and fair for all political parties requesting the use of the facility.

Can caucuses use county election equipment? No.

Some people have asked me if the parties can use county election equipment to conduct the caucuses. While the question is similar to the question regarding facilities, there are some key differences.

Allowing political parties to use any electronic equipment (such as tabulation machines, scanners, or e-poll books) is clearly prohibited. These systems are subject to specific security requirements and certification by the Secretary of State’s Office. This equipment should not leave the possession of the county clerk or elections staff. Any use outside of that authority could result in decertification and prevent future use of the equipment.

I hope I’ve answered some of your questions about the upcoming caucuses. I look forward to seeing how this year goes with all the changes we’re expecting. Happy voting!

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