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AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Idaho’s state primary and Democratic presidential caucus

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Idaho voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide primaries for the U.S. House and the state legislature, one contest will be noticeably absent from the ballot: the race for the White House. That’s because state lawmakers scrapped the presidential primary last year, prompting Idaho Democrats to hold presidential caucuses on May 23 instead.

President Joe Biden faces only nominal opposition in the caucuses with less than three weeks remaining in the presidential primary calendar. He unofficially clinched the nomination in March and has spent the subsequent months focusing on his general election rematch with the Republican presumptive nominee, former President Donald Trump.

The May 23 caucuses will function more like a party-run primary with printed ballots and set polling hours, as opposed to the old Iowa-style caucuses in which caucus-goers indicate their candidate preference by moving around the room and forming groups.

Idaho lawmakers originally planned to save money by consolidating the March 12 presidential primary with Tuesday’s state primary for state and local offices. But after passing legislation last year canceling the presidential primary, the lawmakers failed to take the additional step of moving the event to the May date, in effect canceling it entirely. Idaho Republicans held their caucuses on March 2, and Trump won easily.

In Tuesday’s state primary, the top race on the ballot is the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson seeks a 14th term. He faces two Boise-area challengers who, like him, are tying themselves closely with Trump and his agenda. Scott Cleveland is a financial adviser and Ada County Republican Party official who received about 8% of the statewide vote in his independent bid against Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo in 2022. Sean Higgins is an information technology professional and a former teacher.

Water management has been a key local issue in the district, and Simpson’s 2021 proposal to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River to save salmon populations has put him at odds with some of his fellow Republicans.

Also on the ballot are 18 contested state Senate primaries and 38 contested state House primaries. All 35 state Senate and 70 state House seats are up for election this year, but many of the primaries are uncontested.

Here’s a look at what to expect on primary and caucus night:

PRIMARY AND CAUCUS DAY

Idaho’s state primary will be held Tuesday. Most polls close at 8 p.m. MT, which is 10 p.m. ET. Some polls close 8 p.m. PT, which is 11 p.m. ET.

The Idaho Democratic presidential caucuses will be held on May 23 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time. Most caucuses conclude at 10 p.m. ET, while the last caucuses conclude at 11 p.m. ET.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

In Tuesday’s state primary, The Associated Press will provide vote coverage for the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District, as well as for numerous contested state Senate and state House primaries.

The AP will also provide vote coverage for the May 23 Democratic presidential caucuses. The candidates on the ballot are Biden, Dean Phillips, Jason Palmer, Marianne Williamson and two others. There is no “uncommitted” or write-in option.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Only registered Republicans may participate in the Republican primary. Registered Democrats and unaffiliated or independent voters may participate in the Democratic primary. In Idaho, political parties may choose whether to allow unaffiliated voters and members of other parties to participate in their primaries.

For the Democratic presidential caucuses, only registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters may participate. Unaffiliated voters must sign a document affiliating with the party and affirming that they have not participated in any other party’s nominating contest this year. Caucus-goers may register and affiliate with the state party on caucus day.

DELEGATE ALLOCATION RULES

Idaho’s 23 pledged Democratic delegates are allocated according to the national party’s standard rules. Five at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as are three PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” The state’s two congressional districts have a combined 15 delegates at stake, which are allocated in proportion to the vote results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for any statewide delegates, and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district.

DECISION NOTES

Biden is the overwhelming favorite in the May 23 Democratic caucuses, as he has already clinched the nomination and faces no major challengers. The first indications that he is winning statewide on a level consistent with the overwhelming margins seen in most other contests held this year may be sufficient to determine the statewide winner.

As for Tuesday’s primary, the most notable race is in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers the eastern half of Idaho, bordering Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. It is the slightly less Republican of the state’s two districts, in that voters there gave Trump only 60% of the vote in 2020, compared with the 68% he received in the 1st Congressional District.

The key voting jurisdictions in the 2nd District are Bonneville, Twin Falls and Bannock counties and the swath of Ada County that includes Boise. Simpson carried all four of these counties in the 2022 primary, although he won Twin Falls and Bannock with less than 50% of the vote in a five-way race. He won the Boise area of Ada County with 66% in the primary but went on to lose the county to the Democratic nominee in the general election.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

Idaho does not have automatic recounts, but the state will pay for a recount if the vote margin is less than or equal to 0.1% of the total vote. If the margin is greater, the losing candidate may still request and pay for a recount, and the cost will be refunded if the recount changes the outcome. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is subject to a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

As of May 1, there were 1,001,426 registered voters in Idaho. Of those, about 59% were Republicans and about 13% were Democrats.

In the 2022 primaries, turnout was about 28% of registered voters in the Republican primary and 3% in the Democratic primary. About 29% of Democratic primary voters and 14% of Republican primary voters cast ballots before primary day that year.

As of Thursday, a total of 44,279 ballots had been cast ballots before primary day, about 76% in the Republican primary and 20% in the Democratic primary.

Absentee voting is also permitted in the May 23 Democratic presidential caucuses. The deadline to request an absentee caucus ballot was Thursday. Absentee ballots are due at the state party by 8 p.m. local time on caucus day.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the 2022 state primaries, the AP first reported results at 11:09 p.m. ET. The election night tabulation ended at 4:51 a.m. ET with about 97% of total votes counted. Although most polls in the state close at 10 p.m. ET, state law requires that no results are released before the last polls close at 11 p.m. ET.

For the May 23 presidential caucuses, there is no recent comparable contest to help estimate the timing of the vote count. Results will not be released before the last polls close at 11 p.m. ET, but votes from the earlier time zone will start to be counted an hour earlier. The Idaho Democratic Party hopes to have complete results by about 1 a.m. ET.

ARE WE THERE YET?

As of Tuesday, there will be 168 days until the November general election.

As of May 23, there will be 88 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 166 days until the November general election.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press


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