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Idahoans for Open Primaries initiative has enough signatures to qualify for November ballot • Idaho Capital Sun

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Idahoans for Open Primaries initiative has enough signatures to qualify for November ballot • Idaho Capital Sun


A ballot initiative to end Idaho’s closed primary elections and create a ranked-choice voting system for the general election has enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office announced Wednesday.

In Idaho, ballot initiatives are a form of direct democracy where the people vote on whether or not to pass a law, independent of the Idaho Legislature.

To qualify for the November election, supporters needed to gather signatures from at least 6% of registered voters statewide and from at least 6% of voters in at least 18 of the state’s legislative districts. To meet the statewide total, open primary supporters needed about 63,000 signatures in total.

Signatures for the ballot initiative were first verified by Idaho county clerk’s offices, according to a news release. Members of the Idahoans for Open Primaries coalition submitted their signatures to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office for final verification last week. 

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Idaho open primaries supporters submit signatures to state for final round of verification

The Idahoans for Open Primaries coalition includes Reclaim Idaho, Mormon Women for Ethical Government, Veterans for Idaho Voters, Republicans for Open Primaries and thousands of volunteers.

“All across the state, supporters are fired up about the opportunity to turn in these signatures and move on to the next phase,” Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville told the Sun last week. “This is a celebration of how far we have come, and it also a launch of the next phase of the campaign, which is all about making sure that everyone in Idaho knows about the opportunity to allow all voters to participate in primary elections.”

Arguments in favor and against the initiative are due to the Secretary of State’s Office by 11:59 p.m. Mountain time on July 20, the agency said in a news release. The initiative’s language and selected pro and con arguments will be in a voter pamphlet, which Idaho voters will receive before the general election, the release said.

The Idaho Republican Party is officially against the initiative.

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How does the open primary ballot initiative work?

Under a 2011 state law, political parties do not have to allow anyone who is not formally affiliated with their party to vote in their primary elections. 

The initiative seeks to end the closed primary election law that allows political parties to keep independents and other voters from voting in their primary elections. The law also allows parties to choose to open their primary election to other voters if they notify the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, but only the Democratic Party has opened its primary election. The Republican, Constitution Party and Libertarian primary elections were all closed, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office has previously said.

Instead of closed primaries, the initiative would create a single open primary election that all candidates and all voters would participate in. Under that open primary system, the four candidates that receive the most votes would all advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

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The ballot initiative would also change Idaho’s general elections by implementing a ranked-choice voting system that is sometimes referred to as an instant runoff. 

Under that system, voters would pick their favorite candidate and have the option of ranking the remaining candidates in order of preference – second, third and fourth. The candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and their votes would instead be transferred to the second choice candidate on those voters’ ballots. 

That process would continue until there are two candidates, and the candidate receiving the most votes would be elected the winner. Under that system, voters would only vote once.

Idaho Republican Party opposes open primary initiative

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The Idaho Republican Party came out in opposition to ranked-choice voting during the secretive Idaho Republican State Convention last month in Coeur d’Alene. Meeting behind closed doors, delegates updated the Idaho Republican Party’s platform to specifically oppose ranked-choice voting. The platform reads: “The Idaho Republican Party opposes ranked-choice voting and any other iterations of ranked-choice voting such as STAR voting, ballot exhaustion and instant runoff.”

In a June 13 interview outside the Idaho Republican State Convention, Moon told the Sun she opposes the ballot initiative and ranked-choice voting.

“When (Republicans) ask me about ranked-choice voting, it’s bad,” Moon told the Sun. “It will destroy our conservative Republican state. So if we want this to become a California – another Democrat state – pass ranked-choice voting. It’s a Democrat voting scheme that’s been implemented lastly in Alaska.”

Moon told the Sun ranked-choice voting is confusing and complicated.

“We have got a lot of boots on the ground ready to start fighting this issue,” Moon said. “You’ve got to vote for people you don’t even like and then you also have a system that is very confusing, especially for people who are used to voting for one person for one position and all of a sudden you are voting for multiple.”

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Even though the Idaho Republican Party voted to oppose ranked-choice voting in the party platform, not all Republicans oppose the initiative. Former Gov. Butch Otter, former Speaker of the Idaho House Bruce Newcomb and more than 100 Republican former office holders and voters have endorsed the ballot initiative.



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Idaho

Texas Fire Near Kendrick Remains at 1,575 Acres, is 20% Contained

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Texas Fire Near Kendrick Remains at 1,575 Acres, is 20% Contained


KENDRICK – Crews continue to battle the Texas Fire, located east of Kendrick on the Latah/Nez Perce County line.

According to a Sunday morning update from officials, the fire size is estimated at 1,575 acres and is 20% contained.  The fire area grew by only 32 acres between Thursday and Saturday.  No growth was reported between Saturday morning and Sunday morning.

On Saturday morning, all evacuation orders were lifted and all roads were reopened in the region.

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The last update from the Idaho Department of Lands regarding damage to structures said that the number of buildings lost to the fire included 4 primary residences and 6 outbuildings.








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Officials say firefighters made good progress on Saturday, further securing a control line around the fire. Crews and equipment worked from the fire’s edge further into the interior, applying water with engines, portable water bags with hand pumps, and installing hose and sprinkler systems to extinguish any remaining heat. Helicopters assisted firefighters on the ground with bucket drops to cool down areas of hot brush fuels to allow them to safely engage in mop-up efforts.

Officials say fire activity is expected to remain minimal on Sunday, with creeping and smoldering and little to no open flames. Firefighters continue to search out and extinguish remaining heat and smokes, focusing on 100 feet within the fire perimeter. Due to increased temperatures expected on Sunday, firefighters will look for areas of heat during cooler parts of the day and monitor for any noticeable fire activity later in the day, when temperatures are at their highest.







Texas Fire

Photo: Sage Nelson

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On Wednesday morning, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced authorization of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Texas Fire.

The state of Idaho’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant was approved by FEMA Region 10 Administrator Willie G. Nunn on Tuesday night. “He determined that the Texas Fire threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster,” says a FEMA press release. This is the first grant approved in 2024 to help fight Idaho wildfires.







Texas Fire Perimeter Map as of 7/19/24

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Texas Fire map as of 7/19/24.  Source: Idaho Dept. of Lands


At the time of the state’s request, officials said the wildfire threatened homes in and around Kendrick. The fire was also threatening several cell towers, radio towers, private transmission lines, and agricultural assets in the area.

Idaho Department of Lands firefighters began an aggressive attack of the wildfire on Monday in the Potlatch River Canyon near the junction of Texas Ridge Road and Cedar Ridge Road. Texas Ridge and East Road were closed to the public on Monday evening.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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'Hidden crisis': North Idaho needs foster parents

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'Hidden crisis': North Idaho needs foster parents



COEUR d’ALENE — When Tali Nichols was a 21-year-old newlywed, she didn’t plan to have children for a few years, maybe not until after she finished her degree in elementary education. 

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Then she and her husband, Morgan, got a call that changed their lives.

A family member had lost custody of her baby, who was just six days old. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare was looking for kinship caregivers — relatives or close family friends who could care for the baby. 

“We had 24 hours to decide if we would take in a newborn baby,” Nichols recalled. 

They’ve raised the boy ever since. Two and a half years after he first came into their home, they adopted him. The 8-year-old boy has been joined by two biological siblings, aged 7 and 4, as well as many foster siblings over the years. 

“We’ve used this as an opportunity to show the love of God to others and what it means to be a family,” she said. 

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The Nichols are among just 219 foster families in the five northern counties. There are about 1,500 foster children in Idaho at any given moment. The Idaho Department of Welfare needs to recruit more foster parents like the Nichols, with a goal of doubling the rate of qualified foster families in Idaho. 

In the near-decade since the Nichols began fostering, they’ve cared for 19 different children, ranging in age from newborns to older teens. Many of the children stayed with the Nichols only briefly, while relatives got licensed to provide kinship care. Others stayed for longer. 

“Foster care is this hidden crisis,” said Mishaela “Shae” Mouchette, Region 1 recruitment coordinator for Fostering Idaho. “People don’t know how many children are in foster care at their child’s school or in their church. They just don’t see it.” 

In North Idaho, the number of foster children is usually about equal to the number of foster homes, but most foster parents prefer to care for children under the age of 12. Only about 10% of foster parents are open to caring for teens, according to IDHW. 

“People are scared of teens,” Mouchette said. “Our goal is to show people that these are just kids. All they need is some love and some stability. They’re not to be feared.” 

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When there are no foster homes available for teens, they must live in group homes. Mouchette said such settings can be damaging for teens who have already experienced trauma and instability. 

“It’s no way to live,” she said. “It doesn’t come close to being in a foster home and having one-on-one people there to love and care for you.” 

In addition to her role at Fostering Idaho, Mouchette is a foster mom. She and her husband became licensed in 2020. Their first long-term placement was a pair of siblings, a 4-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy, whom they fostered for two years and ultimately adopted. They’ve also welcomed a biological son and will soon continue fostering. 

Mouchette emphasized that her family’s adoption experience is not typical and, in some ways, not ideal. The No. 1 goal of foster care is to reunite children with their biological parents or, barring that, with other biological relatives. 

About 65% of Idaho children in foster care are eventually reunited with their parents, Mouchette said. Most other children are permanently placed in the care of relatives, whether through guardianship or adoption.   

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“It is a win every time a child is reunified with family,” she said.   

Many people become foster parents for the same reason as the Nichols did: to care for a specific child, typically that of a relative or a close friend, in an emergency. Of 219 foster families in North Idaho, 92 are providing kinship care for a specific child. 

“They can’t be called for an emergency placement,” Mouchette said. 

That’s why it’s important to increase the number of foster parents in Idaho. 

“Anybody who feels they have the capacity in their heart and their home, that’s who we’re looking for,” said Monty Prow, deputy director of youth and family services for IDHW. “We can work with you to get the rest of the way there. If a family’s heart is pulling them in this direction, the rest is detail. We can work that out.” 

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Mouchette said some people mistakenly think they’re unsuitable for fostering because they’re unmarried, don’t own a home or don’t fit into another preconceived idea about what foster parents should be. But it takes all kinds. 

Foster parents can be single, married or divorced. They can live in apartments. They can be parents or have no parenting experience. They can be part of the LGBTQ+ community. They can come from any culture or religious faith. In fact, Mouchette said, foster parents from different backgrounds are needed because foster children come from diverse backgrounds, too. 

“They need people who will accept them for who they are,” Mouchette said. 

Social support and other resources are available for foster parents in Idaho. In addition to frequent group events where foster parents can meet and build community, each Region 1 foster parent has a mentor they can turn to when they need advice or support. 

“That is a huge support that other states don’t have,” Mouchette said. 

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Respite care options are available for foster parents who need a break. Both Nichols and Mouchette have provided respite care for other foster families. 

Foster parents also receive a monthly reimbursement to offset the costs of caring for children. This reimbursement is a flat amount based on the child’s age, beginning at $632 per month for children aged 5 and younger and topping out at $759 per month for children aged 13 to 17. 

Nichols said she and her husband will continue to foster for the foreseeable future. 

“We’ll be there as long as the kids need us,” she said. “It’s hard. You can’t go in with blinders on. You have to be aware of the struggles and be willing to embrace grief. But there is so much joy and so much healing. It’s always more than you expect at the beginning.”  

To learn more about foster care for prospective families, call 211 or 800-926-2588 or visit the foster care page on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website

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Burn bans and restrictions in effect across southern Idaho

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Burn bans and restrictions in effect across southern Idaho


As wildfires continue to pop up across Idaho and the U.S., it’s important they everyone be aware of the burn bans and restrictions currently in effect in their area.

Southern Idaho has several burn bans in place as of July, including Ada County, Canyon County, Owyhee County and Payette County. All outdoor burning is prohibited in counties with burn bans.

Several counties, including Elmore and Boise County, have varying burn restrictions. Boise County has an Open Burning Ban in effect, which prohibits any open fires on private lands between July 1 and October 20. This ban doesn’t prohibit campfires in “appropriate structures” at private residences.

According to Idaho Department of Lands, individuals living outside city limits anywhere in Idaho who plan to burn for any reason — including crop residue burning and excluding recreational campfires — from May 10 to October 20, must obtain a fire safety burn permit.

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For the full map of burn bans and restrictions across Idaho, go to deq.idaho.gov.





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