Many eastern Idahoans might not like gambling, but they do know how to pick a winner.
A ballot measure to let some horse tracks allow patrons to bet on historical horse races, which got 46 percent of the statewide vote, failed by even bigger margins in most local counties.
The picture on Proposition 2, the proposal to expand Medicaid to everyone making up to 138 percent of the poverty level which passed with 61 percent of the statewide vote, was more mixed. Nevertheless, 57 percent of voters in Bonneville County approved it, and it also got narrower majorities in some of eastern Idaho’s more rural and conservative counties.
Prop 1, to legalize instant racing, failed in Bonneville County with 59 percent of voters opposed. In Fremont County, only 40 percent of voters supported it. It got 37 percent support in Jefferson County, 23 percent support in Madison County, 41 percent in Bingham County and 40 percent in Teton County.
The opposition to the ballot measure was mostly funded by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. However, many local politicians also opposed it, including Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, other House and Senate candidates from both parties, and A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic 2014 gubernatorial candidate who did well in this part of the state although he lost to Paulette Jordan in this year’s Democratic primary. The horse racing operators at Sandy Downs in Idaho Falls offered instant racing during the two years it was legal and had planned to bring it back if the measure had passed.
While Prop 2 followed partisan lines in the sense that it passed by bigger margins in Democratic counties, it also had enough support in Republican counties to get it over the finish line. Seventy-one percent of voters in Democratic Teton County supported it, but so did a majority of voters in Republican Bonneville County, and 52 percent of voters in even more conservative Bingham County. It was rejected by 54 percent of voters in Madison County, 59 percent in Jefferson and 52 percent in Fremont County.
While the Legislature has the power to overturn a ballot measure, even some opponents of Medicaid expansion have said they would respect the results if the people approved it. Incoming Gov. Brad Little, who hasn’t said publicly how he voted, has said he would work to implement and fund Medicaid expansion if voters approved it.
“We want to deal with it in a fair way and a compassionate way,” Hill said Tuesday night. “We want to keep the spirit of what people voted for with the expansion.”
Voters in Utah and Nebraska, two other normally Republican states, also approved Medicaid expansion Tuesday. Expansion supporters hailed the results on Wednesday — it got a majority vote in 35 of the state’s 44 counties, and passed by a bigger margin here than any other state.
“Tonight, these hardworking Idahoans are not forgotten; they’re not ignored, they’re not unheard or unseen,” said Luke Mayville, one of the leaders of the expansion campaign. “Tonight, they are lawmakers, because tonight, Medicaid expansion is the law of the land.”
The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group that opposes Medicaid expansion, has promised to fight the outcome in court.
“Though we had hoped special interests would not be successful in persuading Idahoans to support Obamacare expansion, the Idaho Freedom Foundation prepared for this moment,” said the group’s head Wayne Hoffman. “Tuesday’s vote was not the last word on the subject. In addition to being terrible public policy, Proposition 2 is poorly worded and likely unconstitutional.”
Same-day registration numbers aren’t available yet, but what numbers are available already show much higher turnout in Bonneville County compared to the 2014 midterms. There were 51,682 registered voters in the county on Election Day and 35,718 votes cast. Not counting same-day registrations this works out to 69 percent turnout, compared to 56 percent in 2014.