Constitutional amendments require the support of two-thirds of the Idaho House and Idaho Senate

By Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun, March 11, 2024

A proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution that sought to block ranked choice voting failed in the Idaho House of Representatives on Monday and won’t appear on the ballot in November.

Pushed by Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, House Joint Resolution 4 included the following proposed language to add to the Idaho Constitution:

“PERSON WITH HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES ELECTED. In all partisan primary elections and general elections, and for the election of judges, there shall be one round of voting, and the person having the highest number of votes for an office shall be deemed to have won such election.”

Barbieri told legislators his amendment was specifically targeting ranked-choice voting. A ranked choice voting system is one of the provisions of the separate open primary ballot initiative that Idahoans for Open Primaries are hoping to qualify for the November general election.

Under the proposed ranked choice voting system in the open primary initiative, the top four candidates from a primary election would advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. In the general election, voters would vote for their favorite candidate, and then have the opportunity to rank the remaining three candidates in order of preference on the same ballot. The candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and their votes would instead be transferred to the second choice of candidate on a voter’s ballot. That process would continue until there are two candidates left and the candidate with the most votes would be elected the winner.   

“Ladies and gentleman, this is specifically addressing ranked-choice voting,” Barbieri told legislators on the House floor Monday. “The trend toward ranked choice voting is obviously beginning in many states.”

Barbieri said ranked voice voting is complicated and he wished to retain the current voting procedures. 

However, Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, expressed concern that passing the proposed amendment could create problems in contested nonpartisan judicial primary elections. Under state law, when any one individual candidate does not receive a majority of votes in the primary, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. 

“My concern is that if we advance this particular language, we’re setting up a scenario where we are going to end up with judge receiving a plurality of the vote in May, and then because we have said that whoever wins is the winner in that category ,we are subverting the process for the judicial elections to advance to the general election where we have the opportunity to vote between the top two vote-getters that were on the ballot during the May primary,” Raybould said.  

A proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote from both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate. That means it would have taken 47 votes to pass the House on Monday. Instead, the Idaho House voted 42-27 in favor of the bill – falling short of the necessary two-thirds vote. That means the proposed amendment died and won’t go before votes in November’s general election. 

FEATURED IMAGE:  Voters enter Whittier Elementary to cast their ballots in Boise on Nov. 2, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

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