By Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun, March 4, 2024

The overwhelming majority of Idaho’s registered Republican voters did not participate in Saturday’s Republican Presidential Caucus. And despite Idaho’s status as one of the fastest growing states in the country over the past 10 years, fewer Idaho Republicans voted in Saturday’s GOP caucus than voted in the 2012 GOP caucus.

As of Monday morning, the Idaho Republican Party had not released voter turnout data for Saturday’s presidential caucus, which Republican officials said former President Donald J. Trump won

The Idaho Capital Sun calculated turnout for Saturday’s Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus at about 6.8% using publicly available data posted by the Idaho Republican Party and Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

Caucus results released Saturday by the Idaho Republican Party shows that 39,584 votes were cast in the caucus, which was only open to registered Republican voters who met the party’s Dec. 31 affiliation deadline. Data from the new Vote Idaho website shows there are 579,723 registered Republicans in Idaho. 

Using those two data points, voter turnout for the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus came to about 6.8%. 

In the weeks leading up to the caucus, Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon told the Sun there were about 585,000 registered Republicans in Idaho. Using that number, caucus turnout would also have come to about 6.8%.

Political scientist David Adler, who is president of the nonprofit Alturas Institute and has taught politics and government in Idaho, was not surprised by the low turnout. 

“The low turnout among Republican caucus goers, around 6-to-7 % of registered GOP voters, was not surprising,” Adler said in a written statement. “After all, for a state party in thrall to Donald Trump, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. No mysteries, no curiosities, no surprises.” 

Adler said the more interesting question is: What was it about Trump that voters were endorsing? 

How does Saturday’s voter turnout compare to other elections?

Fewer Idahoans voted in Saturday’s Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus than in the 2012 Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus.

In the 2012 Republican Presidential Caucus, 44,672 Idaho Republicans participated, the Spokesman-Review reported. That means 5,088 more Republicans voted in 2012 than on Saturday. 

By comparison, voter turnout in primary elections has been much higher. For example, in the 2020 Republican presidential primary, 118,958 voters participated, according to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. Turnout for the 2020 presidential primary election was 25.8%, according to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.  

Primary elections run by the state give voters more options to vote. During primary elections, voters can vote throughout the day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are also options for early voting and absentee voting in primary elections. 

Why was turnout lower for Idaho’s caucus?

Heading into the caucus, several Republicans and political experts predicted turnout would be lower because voters had to attend the Republican Presidential Caucus in person. There was no option for early or absentee voting, meaning members of the armed forces serving away from home, religious missionaries, people who had to work, people who were ill and people who could not obtain transportation to their caucus site were unable to participate.

Absentee voting will be available in the upcoming May 23 Idaho Democratic Presidential Caucus. Democrats have until May 16 to request an absentee ballot at the Idaho Democratic Party’s caucus website.

Several Republican voters who spoke with Idaho Capital Sun reporters at caucus sites Saturday said they knew voters who were unable to participate and they believed a primary election would have yielded higher turnout. 

“For sure a primary,” voter Denise Caruzzi said when asked by the Sun whether she preferred a caucus or a primary. “This makes it too difficult.”

Idaho Republican Party chairwoman hoped to see 100,000 voters turn out

Heading into the caucus, Moon told the Sun turnout of about 10% would be typical for a caucus, but she would love to see 100,000 voters participate in the 2024 Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus (which would have been about 17% turnout).

“I would love to see 100,000 people turn out so that we can beat Iowa’s caucus result,” Moon told the Sun in an interview at Idaho GOP headquarters in February. “I think the idea of getting people excited is what excites me.”

Efforts to reach Moon on Monday were unsuccessful. 

Number of voters in Idaho Republican presidential primary elections and caucuses, by year:

2024 Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus: 39,584

2020 Idaho Republican Presidential Primary Election: 118,958

2016 Republican Presidential Primary Election: 222,004

2012 Idaho Republican Caucus: 44,672

Sources: Idaho Republican Party, Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, Spokesman-Review newspaper

FEATURED IMAGE:  Idaho Republicans line up for the 2024 presidential caucus at Whittier Elementary in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

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