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Idaho’s 2022 primary election motivated voters almost as much as 1994 ‘Republican revolution’

Voters cast their ballots at Timberline High School during the Idaho Primary on May 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Voters cast their ballots at Timberline High School during the Idaho Primary on May 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

About 32.8% of registered voters cast ballots in the Tuesday election

Not since the historic 1994 midterms has so much of Idaho’s electorate turned out to vote in a midterm primary election.

The primary election in Republican-dominated Idaho usually determines the ultimate winner of the general election — and, on Tuesday, voters largely showed up at the polls to support establishment Republicans over their far-right challengers for statewide races.

About 32.8% of registered voters cast ballots in the primaries Tuesday, according to data from the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. (All results are pending certification by county election officials.)

Turnout rates approached and even passed the 50% mark in a handful of small, rural counties, the data files showed.

The lowest reported turnout rate was about 13% in Idaho County. The highest were about 55% and 57% in Camas and Clark counties.

Voters cast more than 94,000 ballots in Ada County, and 30,415 in neighboring Republican stronghold Canyon County, giving those urban areas a turnout rate of about 32% and 28%.

Idaho has grown rapidly in recent years. So has its voter rolls. On Tuesday, the state reported 975,532 registered voters — an 18% jump from the 826,491 registered to vote in the 2018 midterm primaries.

There were 573,578 registered voters in Idaho for the 1994 midterm primaries. That was a banner election year for the Republican Party in the U.S. The 1994 midterms ushered in a Republican takeover of Congress, as the GOP rallied voters against the Clinton administration's health care plan and other policies.

About 33.3% of Idaho’s registered voters showed up for the primary election that year.

This year, voters turned out in droves to send a different message. For races at the top of the ballot, they opted for Idaho politicians whose challengers came at them from the far right.

“I’ve had a pretty well-known record for 3.5 years,” incumbent Gov. Brad Little told the Idaho Capital Sun on Tuesday. Little won the Republican primary for governor by a wide margin. “People kind of know what they get with Brad Little.”

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, of Oakley, also won the race for lieutenant governor on the Republican ballot.

Bedke and others spoke Wednesday of unifying the fragmented Republican Party to win November’s general election. Bedke said voters told him during his campaign stops that they craved stability.

“If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times (while traveling the state), ‘Please do not let our state change. Don’t let all of this new growth change who we are. I don’t want to wake up five years from now and wonder where our Idaho went,’” Bedke said Wednesday. “The campaign against the Democrats starts today.”

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.