Stakes are too high for unaffiliated voters to sit out Idaho’s May 17 primary election

Voting has been a big part of my life. I worked in the office of the Idaho secretary of state from 1974 to 2015, including 26 years as chief deputy to Pete Cenarrusa and 12 years as secretary of state.

Probably more than anyone else in the state, I can attest that elections do matter. I’ve seen good governments replaced by bad and vice versa. It all depends on how seriously voters take their responsibility to vote. If good people sit out an election year, the state suffers.

Idaho is at a crossroads with two factions of the Republican Party struggling to grasp the state’s steering wheel. One faction is composed of traditional Idaho Republicans who are dedicated to responsible, pragmatic government that deals with the real problems facing Idaho — educating our kids, supporting agriculture and business, protecting our water and natural resources and dealing with all of the other issues that arise in today’s complicated world.

Typical of the traditional Republican leaders, the faction which I support, are Gov. Brad Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary of State candidate Phil McGrane.

The other faction, which has taken over a good deal of the party machinery in recent years, is a faction that thrives on continual conflict — keeping the voters riled up on any number of non-issues just to make political gains.

We have good community schools run by responsible locally elected school boards — not schools that indoctrinate our kids. We have honest well-run elections, without the supposed fraud claimed by some candidates. We don’t need the continual, needless conflict.

On May 17, Idaho voters have the opportunity to choose which faction will prevail and be in charge of the state in coming years. It is a critical election, and every voter must step forward to take part. In a one-party state like Idaho, the winners will be chosen in the Republican Party primary, except in a few geographic areas.

There are more than 300,000 unaffiliated, or independent, voters in Idaho. If they want to have their voice heard in the election, they are entitled under Idaho law to affiliate with the Republican Party and choose the faction they prefer right up until they vote at their polling place or early voting location (this closes at 5 p.m. on May 13).

The law specifically allows it — it is their absolute right.

Unaffiliated voters are the only voters able to change their affiliation when they vote at this point.

Voters already registered in a party cannot change their affiliation on Election Day; their deadline to change parties was March 11.

The only places where unaffiliated voters can change their affiliation is at the polling place as they vote or at an early voting location.

If an unaffiliated voter does not affiliate with a political party at the time of voting, such voter will be issued a nonpartisan ballot, which rarely has any contests. For example, Ada County’s nonpartisan ballot lists 14 uncontested judicial offices.

Everyone should exercise their sacred right to vote; it can make a tremendous change for the better. Participation is the essence of democracy. Please vote.

Ben Ysursa served as Idaho secretary of state from 2003 to 2015. He served as deputy in the office from 1974 to 1976 and as chief deputy from 1976 to 2002. Ysursa is McGrane’s campaign chairman and a director for Take Back Idaho.