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Unaffiliated voter deadline bill is dead, Idaho legislator says

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R, Genesee) at the Idaho Capitol on January 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R, Genesee) at the Idaho Capitol on January 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

House Bill 439 would have changed deadline to affiliate with a political party to mid-March this year

One of the sponsors of a bill that would have changed the voter registration deadline for unaffiliated voters says the bill will not be heard this session.

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, confirmed in an email that House Bill 439 is dead for this session, but did not elaborate on the reason why. Troy presented the bill to the House State Affairs Committee on Jan. 13, and it was printed the following day.

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, was also a bill sponsor but could not be reached for comment.

Under existing Idaho law, voters in the state’s four recognized political parties — Republican, Democrat, Constitution and Libertarian — who want to change their party affiliation or become unaffiliated can do so by filing a request with the respective county clerk office by the candidate filing deadline before a primary election.

Those who are already designated as unaffiliated voters can change their affiliation status to any of the four party categories anytime, up to and including the day of the primary election.

The bill also included an emergency clause, meaning the law would have affected the 2022 primary election.

The candidate filing deadline for Idaho’s primary election this year is March 11, and the Idaho Legislature typically does not adjourn its session until close to or after the end of March.

Alicia Abbott, a field organizer for an anti-extremist group called the Idaho 97 Project, said she and other organizers were making phone calls to voters warning them about the potential change in law and asking them to contact legislators to speak out against the idea. She said the people she had spoken to were not happy about the bill.

“We got a message saying (Troy) was going to pull the bill, so we stopped messaging the warning,” Abbott said. “Caroline did a great job listening to constituents, I wish we had more legislators who did that. We don’t have enough legislators who are listening to feedback from actual Idahoans who are affected by these bills.”

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.