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GOP presidential primary cost state $1.9 million

Idaho’s Republican presidential primary election cost taxpayers $1.9 million this year, coming in just slightly under what state officials originally estimated.

Idaho lawmakers agreed to move the presidential primary from May to March in 2015. The conservative-dominated Statehouse argued that doing so would allow the Gem State to play a bigger role in deciding the presidential nominee.

The state’s Republican and Constitutional parties participated in the bumped up election — though Constitutional party votes made up just 500 of the 222,000 votes cast.

While Idaho’s Democratic Party had the option to also participate in the primary, minority party lawmakers objected to the move. They argued that taxpayers should not pay for a separate partisan election, particularly because the Idaho GOP primary is only open to registered Republicans.

At the time, proponents said creating a separate election for the presidential primary would cost $2 million. Election expenditures include rental fees for voting poll sites, paying poll workers, printing costs for the ballots and postage.

“It costs money for freedom,” said David Johnston, executive director of the Idaho Republican Party. “And we think it’s worthwhile to give Idahoans a voice and get them engaged.”

Johnston added that the presidential primary saw record voter turnout, which had a high number of newly registered Republicans.

Ada County, with the highest population, had the highest bill out of the state’s 44 counties. Officials requested more than $391,000 in reimbursements to hold a separate election.

“Proportionally, it adds up,” said Phil McGrane, the county’s chief deputy clerk. “There are about 750,000 registered voters in Idaho and about 215,000 of them live in Ada County.”

Kootenai and Canyon counties were both reimbursed for more than $110,000. The least expensive reimbursement was in Camas County, which has a population of 1,000 and around 600 registered voters.

The Idaho Democratic Party held a caucus to select its presidential candidate in late March. This meant the party was in charge of picking up the costs. However, Democratic officials are now considering moving to a primary after seeing a huge turnout during this year’s caucus that forced multi-hour delays and hundreds of people leaving without casting a vote.

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