What voter registrations say about the GOP’s Statehouse dominance

According to the current voter registration numbers — complied by the secretary of state’s office — nearly 50 percent of Idaho voters are registered Republicans.

Eleven percent of registered voters are Democrats; 38 percent are unaffiliated.

Break the numbers down into smaller bits, and they help explain the GOP’s overwhelming control of the Legislature.

In 19 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, a majority of voters are registered Republicans. Put another way, Republicans enjoy a large voter registration edge in more than half of the state’s legislative districts. That’s a pretty good jumpstart to a legislative supermajority.

Not surprisingly, Republicans hold all 57 House and Senate seats in these 19 legislative districts. In most cases, the elections aren’t competitive. In November, Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in 32 of these 57 legislative races.

By contrast, there isn’t a single legislative district in Idaho where a majority of voters are registered Democrats. In fact, there is only one district with more registered Democrats than registered Republicans: District 19, a blue stronghold in north Boise. Yet registered Democrats make up only 27 percent of District 19’s registered voters.

It’s important not to read too much into the voter registration numbers — because of Idaho’s closed Republican primary.

In order to take part in the GOP primary, voters must register as a member of the party. Democrats do not have to register to vote in their party’s primary. That’s an important procedural difference. It stands to reason that more Republicans (as well as some independents and crossover Democrats) register with the GOP simply to take part in the party’s closed primary.

So it may not be accurate to conclude that Republicans outnumber Democrats by a 5-to-1 ratio, as the registration numbers suggest. In Boise State University’s latest Public Policy Survey, 36 percent of respondents described themselves as Republicans, while 18 percent described themselves as Democrats and 38 percent described themselves as independents.

But the voter registration numbers still illustrate a wide disparity across much of Idaho — and in one-party legislative districts from the Panhandle to Yellowstone National Park.

More coverage of the voter registration numbers from Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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