An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

ID House Committee Votes To Move Local Elections To Even Years

Screenshot from Kootenai County Elections Office

An Idaho House committee has voted to change the years in which voters elect local and regional leaders.

In Idaho, and Washington for that matter, voters decide state and national races in even-numbered years and local races in odd-numbered years. That system shortchanges the local races, says Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt [R-Eagle]. More than 80% of Idahoans voted in the general election in 2020, but a typical election in an odd-numbered year receives a small percentage of that.

“The legislature needs to increase voter participation in local municipal races by making these races more accessible, more information to the voters and more engagement when we make these critical votes in our communities," she said.

That means moving local races to even-numbered years, to the same ballots with the higher-profile races. DeMordaunt says the proposal could save local governments up to $500,000 a year.

Several people spoke in favor of the proposal, including Ty Palmer, a former council member in Meridian, a city of about 100-thousand people. In his first race, he said, the election turnout was shockingly low.

“I had 1,600 votes and the winner had 1,635. So it was 1,635 people who made the decision about who was going to represent them the next four years, spending $100 million budget every year," he said.

Boise’s city attorney argued there are flaws with the proposal that could open the state to legal challenges. She says the transition to a new system would require current local officeholders to serve a year longer or a year shorter. She says state law conflicts with that.

The bill now moves to the House floor.