Lawsuit claims Bonneville Republican Women let a Democrat vote while blocking Republicans

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IDAHO FALLS — A lawsuit claims the Bonneville County Republican Women blocked some woman from participating in their election, but let the head of the Bonneville County Democrat Party vote.

Diane Jensen, a member of the women’s organization, filed a lawsuit against the Bonneville County Republican Women claiming the organization manipulated its election by only allowing a select few members vote for its leadership.

Now Jensen wants an Idaho court to force the group to repeat its election.

“This is about more than just an election, this is about an abuse of power,” Jensen told EastIdahoNews.com.

The head of the organization, Stephanie Mickelsen, said that is not going to happen, as the Republican Women followed their bylaws and did nothing wrong.

“They tried to come in and overtake an organization that’s been in place for years and years and years,” Mickelsen said. “We simply followed our bylaws. We did what we were supposed to do.”

RELATED: Newsmakers: Stephanie Mickelsen

Although the club is a part of a larger national and state organization, the Republican Women clubs are independent of the Republican Party.

What is going on

The crux of the situation centers around membership dues and organization bylaws regarding membership.

Jensen said she paid her membership dues to the Bonneville County Republican Women after Sept. 1, 2018. Various other women joined her.

During an October election for president, Jensen ran against Lisa Burtenshaw. Prior to the completion of the election, Jensen, along with other women who paid their dues after Sept. 1, were told they were not full members and were not permitted to vote.

The Bonneville County Republican Woman’s bylaws say, “dues of new members joining after Sept. 1 shall apply to the following year’s dues.”

Mickelsen said that means someone who pays dues after Sept. 1 is not a member until January.

Jensen took a different understanding of the bylaw.

“It says ‘dues of new members.’ So it calls you a new member, not a future member. What the bylaw really means is that your dues apply to the remainder of this year and all of next year,” Jensen said.

A Democrat among Republicans

The suit also claims the head of the Bonneville County Democratic Party was allowed to join the Republican organization and vote in the election.

The truth is, Bonneville County Democrats Chair Miranda Marquit did join the Bonneville County Republican Women and voted in their election.

“I was invited to join because I have actually been attending meetings for three years,” Marquit told EastIdahoNews.com. “Some of the women in the Republican Women organization are people that I remember from growing up. My grandmother used to take me to meetings sometimes when I was in high school and also when I was home from college.”

Marquit said the Republican Women often have good community speakers who transcend party, and she enjoys hearing them speak.

Mickelsen said after allowing Marquit to join, they checked with the state Republican Women organization, who told them members should be Republicans and not Democrats.

Mickelsen said Marquit is being refunded her membership dues. As for voting in their election, Mickelsen said Marquit’s vote didn’t decide the outcome of the election.

Mickelsen reaffirms the organization hasn’t violated its bylaws.

Nevertheless, Jensen disagrees.

“I don’t think it’s frivolous to want people to follow the law. So I am spending my own money and putting myself out there to defend this because I believe it’s important,” Jensen said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Diane Jensen ran for president of the Republican Women against Stephanie Mickelsen. Jensen actually ran against Lisa Burtenshaw. EastIdahoNews.com apologizes for the error.

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