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New bill would shorten Idaho’s candidate filing window to one week

Rep. Brent J. Crane (R, Nampa)
Otto Kitsinger
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Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, listens to debate on the House floor at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

If the passed into law, the change could take effect days before the filing window is scheduled to open

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, is sponsoring a new bill in the Idaho Legislature that would cut the amount of time that candidates have to file for office in half, potentially giving short notice to political challengers for this primary election

Crane’s bill applies to the official declaration of candidacy forms that all candidates for precinct, state, district or county offices must file before the primary election.

Crane wants the change to become effective immediately if the bill is signed into law, meaning it would apply to candidates running in this year’s primary elections on May 17

If House Bill 567 becomes law, the filing time window would open at the same time, on the 12th Monday preceding a primary election, which is Feb. 28 this year.

But under Crane’s bill, the filing window would close on the 11th Friday before the primary, not the 10th Friday as is the case in current law. That would close the filing period on March 4, instead of March 11 this year. That would only give candidates five days to file for office instead of 12 days under current law.

“I have been here now, Mr. Chairman, 16 years and every two years when this comes up we in the legislative process delay the difficult issues, we push stuff back and it slows this process down all because we are waiting for that filing period,” Crane said during the bill’s introductory hearing Tuesday. “I just happened to notice this year the amount of people that have declared early that they are running. People that are running for office or planning to run for office know they are running for office, so instead of two weeks of time to get your paperwork together and get your candidacy filed, you would have one week should it become law.”

Crane said, “it’s not something I feel passionate about, but I want to have the policy discussion.”

Changes would include emergency clause, possibly giving a leg up to incumbent candidates

Crane’s bill sets up the potential for the filing deadline to change on incredibly short notice, perhaps with just a day or two for notice if you figure it takes about two weeks for a bill to become law. Under that scenario, every incumbent legislator would know of the change in time because they would be debating and voting on the bill.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, expressed concern about how that could affect Idahoans who may decide to challenge an incumbent.

“People that are running or thinking about running this year are maybe not watching the legislation as closely, maybe they are out campaigning,” Scott told Crane. “I’m just wondering if you would be opposed to introducing this without the emergency clause?”

Lifting the emergency clause would make it so the bill takes effect on July 1 and therefore would not apply to this year’s primary elections. But Crane said the emergency clause needs to stay. He said that people who are already campaigning should have already filed the paperwork to run for office.

However, at this time, candidates can only file initial paperwork appointing a campaign treasurer in order to accept and spend campaign contributions. Candidates cannot officially declare and file for office until the candidate filing window that Crane’s bill would shorten opens.

Crane also added that notice of any changes would be publicized on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website and in paperwork candidates pickup when they file.

Scott then made the motion to introduce House Bill 567 as is, with the emergency clause in place.

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

This is the latest in a series of bills that would change procedures surrounding the 2022 elections and voting.

On Monday, the same House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce a bill that would eliminate the same-day registration for Idaho voters at the polls on Election Day. That bill would also eliminate the ability for Idahoans to sign an affidavit verifying their identity and make it so a student ID is no longer an acceptable form of identification to vote. However, that bill would add an Idaho license to carry a concealed weapon as a new acceptable form of ID for voting.

This year, all 105 seats in the Legislature expire and are up for election. There are also new legislative district boundaries in place for the first time due to the redistricting process.