WASHINGTON (Jan. 24, 2023)—In a new study published today, Matt Germer, a resident elections fellow for R Street’s governance program, establishes why electoral competition is good for both a population and its economy and assesses the landscape in Idaho—a state that struggles with uncompetitive elections.

Idaho is not the only state facing a “primary problem,” which means that its general elections are not competitive because one political party overwhelmingly dominates. But lessons learned from its 2022 election cycle—in which less than 7 percent of all registered voters cast a ballot in a competitive legislative district—make it particularly ripe for reform.

While many factors contribute to the lack of electoral competition in Idaho, the structure of the state’s elections is particularly significant. Idaho should rethink its system and increase competition through electoral reforms. Some solutions include opening primary elections to all voters regardless of party affiliation and instituting blanket primaries with instant-runoff elections. Blanket primaries, also known as “jungle primaries,” are used across the country, and some states are expanding on the top-two model by allowing more than two winners to advance.

Although Idaho’s 105 state legislators are elected every two years, their elections provide few meaningful options for general election voters. The Republican Party has a supermajority in the state legislature, and its electoral structure has made many of its state legislative elections more ceremonial than meaningful. While strong partisan majorities are not inherently a problem, the structure of Idaho’s elections has concentrated power in a small number of voters who participate in primary elections.

Germer concludes by reiterating that “Idahoans have multiple potential reforms at their disposal. Open primaries or blanket primaries along with instant-runoff general elections hold the promise of more competitive elections. While no reform can solve every political problem, these options would offer improvements to the current system and would benefit voters across the Gem State.”

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