- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho House has endorsed a $2 million proposal to move presidential primary elections to March, despite staunch opposition from lawmakers who say taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for associated political events.

House lawmakers advanced the measure on a 50-19 vote Tuesday. Three Republicans sided with all of the chamber’s Democrats in opposition.

Supporters argued that the bill will increase Idaho’s profile in the 2016 presidential primary by moving up the date.

States often vie for the limelight during primary season, attempting to pre-empt other states and collect more campaign spending that comes with having an early primary.

However, the Idaho GOP primary elections are closed to everyone except registered Republicans, prompting opponents to argue that the bill is forcing all the state’s taxpayers to fund a closed election. Democrats would see little benefit from an early primary, given their scant representation in the state, critics say.

For example, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, argued that Republican Party officials should pay for the extra costs of hosting an early presidential primary. He added that the Idaho Republican officials were stuck paying hefty election costs in 2012 -primarily because the party rented a $35,000 venue and left with almost no money to support local candidates- and were now trying to a find a way to shift those costs.

“It’s wrong in principal,” he said.

Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, countered that political parties are not forced to conduct an early primary election under the bill.

The plan now heads to Gov. Butch Otter, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he supports it.

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