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GOP legislators introduce two new bills to change Idaho’s voting procedures

Rep. Dorothy Moon (R, Stanley)
Otto Kitsinger
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Rep. Dorothy Moon (R, Stanley) at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

One bill would eliminate Idaho’s same-day voter registration option at the polls and eliminate the ability to use a student ID to vote

The Idaho Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee introduced a pair of new bills Monday that would change voting procedures ahead of this year’s primary elections.

One bill, House Bill 549, is a voter identification bill that sponsors are calling the Secure Election Act.

If passed into law, House Bill 549 would make it so that Idahoans would no longer have the option to sign a voter affidavit verifying their identity at the polls on Election Day. That bill would also make it so that student IDs would no longer be an acceptable form of ID to vote, though the bill would add the ability to use a concealed weapons permit that displays the permit holder’s date of birth and Idaho address.

The bill would also eliminate Idaho’s same-day voter registration option at the polls even though the bill’s sponsors did not mention that during Monday’s hearing, Boise State Public Radio reported. If the bill passes, voters would need to register electronically by 30 days prior to the election, or by the Friday before the election if they register in-person at the county clerk’s office.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, is co-sponsoring House Bill 549 with Sen. Regina Bayer, R-Meridian. Moon told legislators that Theo Wold, a special assistant to former President Donald J. Trump, worked on the bill too.

“Election integrity is at the forefront of every American’s mind, and the Secure Election Act tackles the hard problems embedded in Idaho’s election law,” Moon said during the bill’s introductory hearing. “None of us want to see illegal votes nullify legal votes. That’s a very important concept to make sure that we have good election law in this state.”

Republicans have dominated Idaho elections for decades, and they have won every statewide election since 2002 when the late Marilyn Howard was re-elected as state superintendent of public instruction.

On Oct. 6, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office announced claims of election fraud connected with My Pillow CEO and Trump ally Mike Lindell were “without merit” following a review and recount.

“While our team is always looking for possible vulnerabilities, this allegation was patently without merit from the first look. It takes hard work to build confidence in a state’s elections system, and careless accusations like this can cause tremendous harm,” Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said in October. “Doing nothing and saying nothing would have been like conceding its truth.”

Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, asked Moon whether there has ever been an example of something happening in Idaho elections that her bill would prevent. She could not give him an answer.

“I cannot give you any example personally, but the fact of the matter is that there have been elections where like in Washington state there were 62,000 votes that were just affidavits and someone was charged for felony, this is in a press release that will be going out once, hopefully, you all approve this (draft bill),” Moon said. “Just the idea that it does happen, whether it’s happened in Idaho, we don’t want it to, but to me it seems pretty lax that we could just ask for Bob to sign a piece of paper saying who he is.”

Mathias expressed concern eliminating the voter affidavit option, which allows voters to sign a sworn statement, under penalty of perjury, verifying their identity if they don’t have an ID or don’t show an ID.

“It sounds like we are starting to cast doubt on the reliability of affidavits, which brings me a little bit of pause because we trust affidavits across the board in our legal system,” Mathias said.

Under the bill, if a voter cannot produce an ID, they would be given an provisional ballot, which would be kept separate, the voter would have until 10 days following the election to present proper ID to the county clerk and have their ballot counted. Provisional ballots that are not validated would be marked spoiled and not counted.

Under the bill, the only acceptable form of IDs would be:

  • A current Idaho driver’s license or state ID.
  • A current U.S. passport. 
  • A current active military ID card. 
  • A current tribal ID card issued by a federally recognized Native American tribe. 
  • A current Idaho license to carry concealed weapons that displays the permit holder’s date of birth and address in Idaho. 

Moon says one of the problems with using student ID is they don’t show whether the student is a U.S. citizen.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, wondered if the bill’s passage would prevent students from voting in the district where they attend college if their driver’s license lists the address of their parents’ house back home in another town.

The committee voted to introduce the new bill, which clears the way for it to return to the House State Affairs Committee for a full public hearing.

The bill contains an emergency clause, which would make it effective the date it is signed into law. Normally, bills that do not contain an emergency clause take effect on July 1, the first day of the state’s fiscal year. The emergency clause ensures the bill would be in effect for the spring primaries if it becomes law.

Idaho’s anti-‘ballot-harvesting’ bill returns

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star- is pushing a rewritten version of the so-called anti ballot-harvesting bill from 2021.

The new bill is House Bill 547, and the legislation makes it illegal to knowingly collect and return someone else’s absentee ballot.

There are exemptions for people related to the voter, people who live in the same household as the voter and for elections officials and delivery carriers. But there is no exception for neighbors, co-workers, unmarried couples who don’t live together or friends

Moyle said the bill is necessary to protect elections, but some legislators and members of the public worried the original bill would have turned neighbors, coworkers and friends into criminals simply for helping drop off an absentee ballot as a favor.

The previous version of Moyle’s bill passed the Idaho House last year but was never considered by the Idaho Senate.

Moyle said he rewrote it to allow members of a voter’s household to be allowed to return a roommate’s ballot.

“So we tried to address some of their concerns in this new (draft bill) that is before you,” Moyle said.

Moyle said his bill is based in part on one of the recommendations the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform issued in 2005.

This bill would still make it a felony to turn in more than 10 other people’s ballots or if the person turning in the ballots was paid by anyone other than the voter.

The House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce House Bill 547, which clears the way for it to return to the committee for a full public hearing.

The bill also contains an emergency clause, which would make it effective the date it is signed into law. The emergency clause ensures the bill would be in effect for the spring primaries if it becomes law.