SANDPOINT — Idaho voters won’t see Democratic or Republican candidates for president on the primary ballot this May.
That’s because both parties have opted to conduct caucuses to select their respective presidential candidates.
Bonner County Republicans are caucusing on Tuesday, March 6 at Sandpoint High School, Priest River Junior High School, Blanchard Community Center and The Filling Station Youth Center in Clark Fork. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Bonner County Democrats are caucusing on Saturday, April 14, at Sandpoint Community Hall. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.
Democrats will be mainly caucusing for delegates to the state convention in June because their candidate, President Barack Obama, is already in office.
Republicans will be caucusing on the five candidates looking to unseat Obama — Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Cornel Rasor, chairman of the county central GOP committee, said caucus attendees will cast private ballots.
“Any candidate that doesn’t achieve 15 percent is removed from the running and then there’ll be another round until someone hits 51 percent,” said Rasor.
The Idaho GOP elected to caucus the presidential primary to ensure their voice is heard during the presidential election cycle.
A number of states moved up the dates of their primaries or caucuses, which means the nominee is usually decided this month or the next.
Idaho’s primary isn’t until May 15.
Moreover, Idaho has 32 delegates to send to the national convention, more than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada. As a result, Idaho is seen as an early prize for the winning Republican presidential candidate.
Idaho Democrats are caucusing because it encourages locals to get involved in the process of being a delegate. Idaho Democrats have 12 delegates.
“That’s what I think is the best part about the caucus process. It really reaches to the grassroots,” said Laura Bry, chair of the Democratic central committee.
A drawback of the caucus, in Bry’s view, is that the event is time-specific and you can’t vote absentee.
“We’re caucusing on a Saturday instead of a weeknight so we think more people can come out,” she said.
Rasor also sees the lack of absentee voting and participation of those in military service overseas as disadvantages.
“The advantages would be that the people who are really engaged politically and passionate about their candidate are more likely to be represented,” Rasor said.
Delegates for the GOP’s state convention will be done at the central committee-level.