March 3, 2023 6:00am

Ranked Choice Voting, Greater Idaho, and Higher Education

Idaho lawmakers have considered an avalanche of bills in recent weeks – some with big potential impacts on Idahoans.

Photo of Melissa Davlin
Boise, ID Correspondent

Idaho lawmakers have considered an avalanche of bills in recent weeks – some with big potential impacts on Idahoans.

This month, we asked Power Poll Treasure Valley participants about proposals on ranked choice voting, Greater Idaho, and a grant program for graduating high school seniors.

The House State Affairs Committee passed a bill Thursday that would preemptively ban ranked choice voting from Idaho. The form of voting has gained popularity in some states across the nation. In races in which there are three or more candidates, it allows voters to choose candidates in order of preference instead of voting for just one.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dale Hawkins, R-Fernwood, claimed ranked choice voting causes confusion for voters. “This is a voting system that is spreading around the country, I would say a little like a virus,” he told the committee on Thursday.

But other jurisdictions have found that ranked choice voting is popular among their residents. After a test run in Utah County, Utah, in 2019, a survey showed 82 percent of residents wanted to use ranked choice voting again in the future.

We asked Power Poll respondents if they agreed with Hawkins’ bill. Of those who responded, 22 percent said Idaho should ban ranked choice voting, while 53 percent said the state should leave the door open for the possibility in the future. Another 25 percent said they weren’t sure.

The Greater Idaho movement continues to generate chatter in the Idaho legislature, and in some parts of Oregon. The proposal would move the boundary between Oregon and Idaho, absorbing all or part of 17 counties into Idaho. The idea, proponents say, is those eastern counties are more politically and culturally aligned with conservative Idaho than liberal western Oregon. So far, 11 of those Oregon counties have voted in favor of joining Idaho in non-binding votes.

In February, the Idaho House passed a memorial calling for formal talks on Greater Idaho between the Idaho and Oregon legislatures.

We asked Power Poll Treasure Valley participants if they support those discussions. Of those who responded, 24 percent said yes, while 66 said no. Another 10 percent said they weren’t sure.

One of the highlights of Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State pitch was his proposed expansion of the Idaho Launch program.

The proposal would give $8,500 grants to graduating seniors who pursue higher education or career training for certain in-demand careers.

The Idaho Launch expansion has been at the center of multiple high-profile debates this legislative session, first after it narrowly passed the House by one vote, and then after some senators objected to Senate leadership sending it to the Commerce and Human Resources Committee instead of the Education Committee, knowing it had a better chance of surviving the former. The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate.

We asked Power Poll participants what they thought of the program. Of those who responded, 68 percent said they support the idea, while 15 percent said they oppose it. Another 18 percent said they aren’t sure.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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