2021 election confirms adage “All politics is local”



The argument that “all politics is local” has been repeated over and over again, dating from the 30s; but an end game 20e politics of the century, US House Speaker Tip O’Neill is most closely associated with the expression. Simply put, voters have greater influence over municipal elections.

“We know that more and more people are very much engaged in politics right now,” said Dr Jaclyn Kettler, professor at Boise State University. “This can translate into a higher turnout. So, I’ll be really interested to see what happens with the turnout this fall.

Just two weeks before Election Day 2021 and early voting begins in Idaho, Kettler joined Morning Edition host George Prentice to study the current political landscape, with a particular focus on a big change in the how the Town of Boise will select Town Members. advice.

“This can shift to a more neighborhood-oriented approach and ensure that the city’s neighborhoods are represented.”

Dr Jaclyn Kettler

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: This is the morning edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Hello. I am George Prentice. Fresh out of the political hangover of the 2020 election, Idaho is now preparing for what promises to be another important election day in less than a month. In fact, early voting begins in a number of communities this week. All the more reason for us to spend time this morning with Dr Jaclyn Kettler, professor at Boise State University, where her research and mentorship focuses on our political landscape. Dr. Kettler, hello.


PRENTICE: At the top, let’s talk about voter access – something the Idaho legislature debated earlier this year. In fact, an effort to make statewide voting measures a bit more stringent was passed by the legislature and enacted. But since then, the Idaho Supreme Court had something to say about it.

KETTLER: That’s right. Earlier this year, the Legislative Assembly passed a bill that would have raised the threshold of signatures required to qualify for the ballot from six percent of registered voters and 18 legislative constituencies to thirty-five legislative constituencies. And so that would make it much more difficult to qualify a measure to qualify for the ballot. But the Idaho Supreme Court overturned it in August, saying it was too restrictive

PRENTICE: And efforts that had been put on hold earlier this year quickly hit the reset button. And I guess we might see some initiatives on the ballot, maybe next year.

KETTLER: So when the Idaho Supreme Court overturned that, the law reverted to the 18 precedents required in 18 legislative districts to meet that signing threshold. And so, Reclaim Idaho has restarted its efforts for an education funding initiative that would raise the taxes of those who earn, I think, over $ 250,000 and the rate of businesses to try to increase funding from K to 12 in the state.

PRENTICE: Well, there we are: it’s an odd year and that means local elections. Let’s talk a bit about a big change in the local election, especially in the city of Boise, something the Idaho legislature has affected change on.

KETTLER: The legislature has passed a bill requiring geographic districts for cities over a certain population, and so this will be Boise’s first election using those geographic districts, and it won’t be all districts. Only half of the districts will be elected this fall, to two-year terms, then all council seats will be vacant in 2023 for elections.

PRENTICE: And indeed, we know for a fact that change is coming. We know of at least one retirement from the board, so there is change. And frankly, the fact that one part of town is oriented more towards the western part of town, and one argument has been that West Boise has been under-represented in town hall.

KETTLER: By having elections all over the city, you can have representatives all from similar neighborhoods, can’t you? And that has been a criticism: that the North End in particular has been over-represented on city council. So having these geographic districts, which can focus more on the neighborhoods and ensure that the city neighborhoods are represented and West Boise being the one that’s up this fall, which is the TJ Thomson district, and he’s retiring of the municipal council.

PRENTICE: In 2020, Idaho recorded a record number of ballots. I think over 80% of registered voters participated in the election. But the municipal elections would like to have as much participation. Having said that, it reminds us of the old quote from Tip O’Neill: “All politics is local.

KETTLER: It’ll be really interesting to see what the turnout looks like this fall as we move to those geographic districts. Only half of the city of Boise will have its districts up for election. So, that will change a bit. But we also know that more and more people are very involved in politics right now. I think there is a lot of interest and frustration. And so, you know, it can translate into a higher turnout again. So, I’ll be really interested to see what happens with the turnout this fall.

PRENTICE: Another event that we need to take note of this year will undoubtedly have an impact on next year’s election and it will likely be the reconvening of the Idaho legislature by the end of this year. We know that among other things, they will be considering possible censorship of Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who has indicated that she wants to run for a statewide job. And that vote, especially among Republicans, could be very telling and maybe even a bit of a barometer for next year’s GOP primary.

KETTLER: We’ve seen some of these ideological divisions within the Republican Party arise at different times, and I think how this vote or how this debate might play out can be revealing in terms of, you know, let’s see. far away the good candidates or legislators are regrouping? I think it will be really interesting to see how it goes.

PRENTICE: God knows how much money is invested in the gubernatorial elections and certainly in the presidential one. Do you see elections even at the municipal level when you see the cost of these elections increasing?

KETTLER: It’s something that we see across the country. And above all, I think that you have quite a few candidates who are active at the municipal level. You can see more money getting involved. A lot of times that’s where you can have interests like the developers who are particularly involved in politics and things because at the local level these decisions really impact some of these industries. So we are seeing increases in general. And I think that’s one thing to look for: who is giving the money, who is spending the money in these elections?

PRENTICE: And there has to be an increasing importance of candidate forums. I have the impression that a good number of voters do not even flip the switch until maybe a week or two before the election. And so, they turn to forums such as the City Club or League of Women voter forms. These become even more important, I guess, in local elections.

KETTLER: These are essential ways for voters to learn more about the candidates’ experiences and qualifications and the positions at stake and their issues priorities and what they would really like to do during their term in office, as well as what to do with them. ‘an opportunity to perhaps try to emphasize the importance of issues that are overlooked. So these are important dialogues not only for learning about applicants and making decisions, but also, hopefully, for helping applicants learn about their communities.

PRENTICE: This is Dr. Jaclyn Kettler, professor at Boise State University. And as we head into election day, there is someone helping us navigate this political minefield. Doctor Kettler, have a good morning and a good weekend.

KETTLER: Thanks. You too.

Find journalist George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

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