On March 28, the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee introduced SB 1198. Currently, Idaho voter registration forms do not ask voters to choose a party. The bill provides that in the future, voter registration forms will include a place for voters to choose a party, or to choose “unaffiliated” status. The bill also says that sign-in sheets at the May 2012 primary will include a party membership checkbox. Starting in 2012, each qualified party would determine for itself whether or not to let independent voters vote in its primary.
Voters who don’t fill out a new voter registration form in the next two years, and who don’t vote in the 2012 primary, would automatically become independent voters. Voters who choose a Republican ballot in the May 2012 primary would be automatically listed as Republicans, and the same is true for the Democratic, Constitution, and Libertarian Parties. The bill does not provide for a blank line on the voter registration form for anyone to write-in the name of an unqualified party. That aspect of the bill may be unconstitutional; courts in five states have said that voters must be allowed to register into active unqualified parties. Also, the failure of the bill to provide for a blank line for a voter to write-in the name of a newly-qualifying party would mean that if a new party qualifies in Idaho, all the voter registration forms would need to be immediately reprinted.
If the bill passes, it is not out of the question that Idaho voters who are not happy with this system will create a new party, perhaps named the Moderate Party. Rhode Island already has a ballot-qualified party named the Moderate Party, and Alaska once had a ballot-qualified Republican Moderate Party.