Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy and Administration


Public Administration

Major Advisor

Gary F. Moncrief, Ph.D.


Leslie Alm, Ph.D.


Gregory Hill, Ph.D.


The ability to elect representatives is one of the most fundamental rights citizens of the United States of America possess, but the expression of that right looks very different from state to state. A state’s primary system determines not only who participates in an election, but under what circumstances. When a state shifts from one primary system to another, it produces a period of uncertainty, as the electorate must acclimate to new rules and their attendant consequences. Among those who must adjust to the new rules are public state employees—the bureaucracy. When a shift necessitates and introduces a partisan registration system, the relationship that exists between the bureaucracy and elected policymakers can be altered. Following a 2011 federal court ruling, Idaho switched its primary from an open system (where no record of partisan affiliation is kept) to a closed system (where public partisan affiliation is required). This has left bureaucrats with two alternatives: register with a political party publicly or self-disenfranchise from primary elections. There is anecdotal evidence that, weighing the consequences of the two options, some bureaucrats in Idaho have opted for self-disenfranchisement. This dissertation examines the extent to which this phenomenon is prevalent in state government, using unique and original data: (1) tracing the registration and voting behavior of a sample of Idaho bureaucrats and (2) a unique survey of employees in four state agencies/offices. Beyond exploring the impact on bureaucratic participation, this dissertation also provides insight on the effect that Idaho’s shift to a closed primary has had on voter turnout, electoral competition, and incumbent challenges.

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