June will be a big month for Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. He’ll celebrate his 65th birthday and mark 40 years in office – 28 as the closest aide to the late Secretary Pete Cenarrusa and a dozen as Cenarrusa’s successor and Idaho’s top election official. He’ll have put to bed the last of the 21 primaries. Just one contest will remain – the November election to decide who will be the first secretary since 1967 without roots in northern Spain. “It will obviously be a non-Basque,” Ysursa joked Tuesday as he announced his support for Republican Phil McGrane. “So it’s even more important to watch.” Kidding aside, Ysursa fought back emotion as he spoke of the office’s tradition of fairness. Just behind him, his wife, Penny, who worked for Cenarrusa and met her husband on the job in 1974, teared up as a Capitol crowd loudly applauded Ysursa.
On Friday, Ysursa was the monthly speaker at Idaho GOP headquarters. He said he was proud to be part of efforts to make voting easy in Idaho, including election-day registration, an affidavit for voters without photo ID to swear to their identity, and “no excuse” absentee voting for anyone who wants it.
The first spate of absentee ballots for the May 20 primary were mailed Friday. But Ysursa will leave office troubled by declining voter turnout, particularly among the young.
“It boils down to candidates, issues, competition,” he said. “How about just exercising one of your duties as a citizen of the United States that cherishes the freedom to vote? The younger generation has been caught in a cycle of nonvoting and that bothers a lot of us who think participation is the essence of democracy.”