Frequently Asked Questions about the Presidential Caucus
1. Why should Idaho have a Republican Presidential Caucus?
This past legislative session, legislation was introduced intending to move Idaho’s presidential primary from March to May.
The bill that was introduced, and the legislature passed, and the governor signed, failed to move our presidential primary to May, instead removing the presidential primary completely, leaving Idaho Republican voters with no ability to vote for their preference in the 2024 Presidential contest.
Idaho’s social and economic interests deserve national focus. Keeping the Idaho GOP’s Presidential nomination process in March will incentivize national candidates to campaign in Idaho, learn and debate issues important to Idaho, and appeal directly to the voters of Idaho.
To advance the interests of our state, including our industries, job creators, and employers, the Idaho GOP must remain in the front of the presidential nominating process. Which is why on June 24, 2023 at the Republican State Central Committee summer meeting, the Idaho Republican State Central Committee voted overwhelmingly to institute a Presidential Nominating Caucus for 2024 to fill the gap where no presidential primary exists anymore.
2. How does the Caucus work?
The first Saturday in March, the day of Idaho’s Republican Presidential Caucus, every county in the state will hold a County Caucus. The counties will invite Republican candidates and voters to attend and participate. Voting will be conducted by secret ballot. Delegates for the Republican National Convention will be awarded proportionately according to the outcome of the statewide votes in the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus with the provision that any candidate who receives more than 50% of the statewide vote total will be awarded all the Idaho delegates for the Republican National Convention.
The Idaho Republican Presidential Nomination Caucus will result in 32 pledged delegates to the Republican National Convention, allocated according to the County Caucus voting—possibly with all delegates pledged to one Presidential candidate. (As usual, if a second ballot is required at the national convention, those delegates are released from their pledge.)
3. Who votes in the Caucus?
All registered electors that have affiliated Republicans in the county on record as of January 1 of a Presidential election year, as well as any voters who turn 18 between January 1 and the date of the Presidential Caucus and who sign an affidavit declaring that they have registered to vote and affiliate with the Republican Party within that period and are therefore eligible to vote in Idaho elections shall be eligible to participate.
4. Isn’t a Caucus system less democratic than a Primary System?
The Caucus will be open to all registered Republican voters that are able to attend. Many other Caucus states restrict the voting to only precinct chairs and county officers. Any Republican who usually votes in the Republican Primaries is welcome and encouraged to also participate in the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus. Again, all Republicans can vote in the caucus.
5. What is wrong with the Primary that makes a change to a Caucus system necessary?
The primary system for choosing our Republican Presidential nominee was ended when the bill that eliminated the March Presidential primary date was signed.
The Idaho Republican Party is determined to make Idaho’s voice count. Unless the March Primary date is restored prior to the RNC deadline of October 1, 2023 (and that would require a special session of the legislature), the Idaho Republican Party is proceeding with a Presidential Nominating Caucus to make sure we have a voice. Candidates have paid attention to Idaho since 2012, when we started doing our Presidential nominating early in March of the Presidential election years. We don’t want to return to seeing Idaho ignored by the candidates and irrelevant. The Caucus system fixes the current problem of a non-existent Presidential primary.
The caucus system puts Idaho before "Super-Tuesday” in March. With our caucus, leading Presidential candidates see Idaho as an important piece to their strategies to win the nomination (32 delegates are at stake). Idaho has a voice in the Presidential nomination process.
6. What is a delegate and why are they important at the Republican National Convention?
The term “delegate” refers to a person elected by Idaho Republicans to represent Idaho at the Republican National Convention. To nominate the party’s candidate for President, each state sends a number of delegates to the Republican National Convention. There, a vote is taken to determine which candidate has the most support from the delegates, and that candidate becomes the Republican Nominee for President. There are only 2,422 total delegates, therefore a single delegate’s vote carries a lot of weight in choosing our Presidential nominee.
7. How are delegates awarded?
If a candidate wins more than 50% of the total votes cast in the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus, that candidate is awarded all of the Idaho delegates to the Republican National Convention for nominating the GOP candidate for President. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the total votes cast in the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus, then candidates are awarded delegates proportionately to the votes received by each candidate receiving at least 15% of the votes cast in the Caucus statewide (rounded to the nearest whole delegate, provided that any remainder delegate goes to the winning candidate). Any candidate that receives less than 15% of the total votes receives no delegates.
8. Do other states hold a Presidential Caucus, and are they similar to the Idaho Caucus?
Yes. Currently there are at least 20 other states that have some form of a caucus or convention system. In creating the new Idaho caucus we were able to pick the best parts of the systems already in place throughout the country so that we could implement a new system quickly and effectively. You have to look no further than Wyoming to find a system very similar to Idaho’s caucus. However, the Wyoming caucus is more restrictive than Idaho’s, essentially allowing only precinct men and women to vote.
9. Won’t a Caucus System invite criticism of the Republican Party?
For something as important as choosing our Republican Presidential Nominee, we should worry less about criticism and focus on making sure the process works for Idaho Republicans to help select the best possible nominee for the office of President. Many other states use a caucus system; Idaho Republicans will be doing what those states already do.
10. This is a big move, why not wait for the legislature to act?
To comply with the rules of the Republican National Committee, any changes to Idaho’s National Convention delegate selection process must be adopted and submitted to the RNC prior to October 1, 2023. Idaho’s caucus proposal has been given careful consideration prior to being adopted. The proposal has already gone through several steps before being put to the committee for consideration. It was reviewed and adopted by the Idaho Republican Party Rules Committee in June. Unless the legislature acts before October 1, 2023, then we must submit our plan for the caucus to the Republican National committee for approval.
11. Will guidelines be available for County Central Committees informing them how best to conduct the Caucus process and voting procedures?
Yes, the Idaho Republican Party will play a supporting role to help make the process work and to help educate the counties and their leadership on how the Caucus system will be conducted. The caucus will make Idaho relevant and will be an exciting event early in the nomination process. Get ready to see the Republican candidates come to Idaho to try to win your support!