Open Primaries Initiative exceeds state requirement with 70,000+ signatures

By Reader Staff

Idahoans for Open Primaries has surpassed the petition signature requirement for the ballot initiative to end Idaho’s closed primary system, seeking to create nonpartisan primary elections that are open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. 

As of March 19, the coalition of groups working toward putting the Open Primaries Initiative on the November 2024 ballot had gathered 71,742 signatures and qualified 17 legislative districts, with three more districts only 250 signatures away from meeting the threshold to qualify.

According to Idaho’s regulations on citizen-led ballot initiatives, campaigns are required to gather valid signatures from 6% of all Idahoans who were registered to vote in the most recent general election — currently a total of 62,895. In addition, campaigns must collect signatures from 6% of registered voters in 18 of the 35 legislative districts in the state.

The deadline for securing the required number of signatures and qualified legislative districts is Wednesday, May 1.

“We set a goal to collect 100,000 signatures before submitting our petition to the Secretary of State’s Office,” stated Ashley Prince, Idahoans for Open Primaries campaign manager. “While that number exceeds the state’s requirements, we want to go above and beyond to ensure our community members understand the initiative and are excited by it before it ever reaches the ballot. With just six weeks to go, Idahoans for Open Primaries is confident that we will reach our goal.” 

According to the Idahoans for Open Primaries website,, the closed primary system approved by the Legislature in 2011 has functioned to block 270,000 independent voters in the state from participating in primary elections unless they choose to affiliate with a political party. 

The Idaho Republican Party has held closed primaries since 2012, while the Idaho Democratic Party and Constitution Party both make their primary elections open to unaffiliated voters.

State GOP leaders have been strident in their opposition to the Open Primaries Initiative, including Idaho Republican Party Chair Dorothy Moon, who wrote in December that the initiative would “dismantle” the electoral “pillars” of “one person, one vote” and “the right of political parties to freely associate and choose their own nominees. … [R]igging the game for more leftist candidates.”

Bonner County Republican Central Committee Chair Scott Herndon — who also serves as District 1 Senator — has similarly expressed opposition to the initiative, stating at a September BCRCC meeting that the ballot measure would “eliminate the political primary system.”

“You might as well get rid of the Republican Party, because there’s no party nomination process anymore,” he added.

Proponents of the Open Primaries Initiative have been clear that their intention is to “blast Idaho’s primaries wide open,” as former-Idaho Supreme Court Justice, Idaho Attorney General and Open Primaries supporter Jim Jones stated in a March 19 news release.

“We shouldn’t exclude people — that’s not the way we do things in America,” he added. “We deserve to participate and have our voices heard in elections.” 

For more information about the initiative, see endorsements, sign the petition or volunteer, visit

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