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Guest editorial: Making jerks out of Idaho voters

One voter crumpled up a ballot and threw it at a poll worker.

You just gotta’ love Democracy in action – courtesy of Idaho Republicans.

Yes, it really did happen that a voter, so angry that he could not vote in the Republican primary, threw a crumpled ballot at a poll worker. And there were other incidents of voters being jerks to poll workers in the May 20 election. The behavior included shouting and perhaps some cursing. Typically, the angry voters accused poll workers of “denying their right to vote” or some similar diatribe.

While such behavior in unacceptable, it is also somewhat understandable. Nothing, perhaps with the exception of free speech, is as important to people as the right to vote – whether they exercise it or not.

Make no mistake, poll workers who were abused by would-be voters did nothing wrong. They simply did their jobs. They ensured that all voters adhered to Idaho election law. No matter how confounding and unfair it may be.

The Idaho election law is courtesy of Idaho Republicans.

A few years ago, Republicans sued the state of Idaho over how primary elections were conducted. Republicans – who had won almost every election at the state level for more than a decade – claimed things were just not fair.

Prior to the lawsuit, voters would be given both a Republican and Democratic ballot. The voter would then choose which ballot to vote. The system worked. In fact, it worked so well, voters rarely felt the urge to throw ballots at poll workers. It was a remarkably civil process.

All that freedom – allowing mere voters to decide which primary to vote in without first registering with the state – frightened some Republicans. So they sued.

They claimed some unwashed voters, who may not be as Republican as these particular Republicans would prefer, ruined Republican elections. The result of the lawsuit was Republicans were allowed to close their elections.

That is, voters may only vote in the Republican primary election if they first register with the state declaring themselves to be Republican.

The irony is thicker than lobbyists in the capitol.

Republicans claim to want to get government out of our lives. They purport to support all rights – from property to personal. They speechify about regulations and rules that infringe on our lives every day. They claim to be the defenders of individual freedom and promise forever to stand up to government abuse of the individual.

Yet these same Republicans demand that any voter who wants to cast a ballot in the taxpayer-funded Republican primary must first register with the state.

A lot of voters don’t think it is any of the state’s – or the Republican Party’s – business what ballot they vote. Signing what amounts to a pledge of fealty to a political group as a requirement to vote has no place in a representative republic.

But the real issue is a lot of taxpayers, even if they are willing to comply with the Republican voter mandates, do not understand the rules until it is too late. These are the voters who become angry when they are told they cannot vote for the candidate of their choice because the deadline for them to comply with the paperwork is required by freedom-loving Republicans has passed.

It was one of those people who crumpled up a ballot and threw it at a poll worker in Benewah County.

It isn’t clear whether Republicans accomplished what they thought they wanted by changing the election rules, but one thing is certain. Republicans managed to transform some voters, normally a pleasant if somewhat frustrated bunch, into jerks.

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