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Idaho House passes bill making some ballot collection practices a crime

Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, presents House Bill 547 on the floor on Monday. (Screenshot courtesy of Idaho in Session)

Legislation’s sponsor says measure would increase election security

On a near party-line vote, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill Monday making it a misdemeanor to turn in absentee ballots for any person who is not a relative or roommate.

The bill includes an emergency clause that would make the change effective immediately if it is passed by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Brad Little.

House Bill 547 passed by a vote of 53-14, with two Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, sponsored the bill, saying it was a second attempt at a bill he sponsored in 2021 that passed the House but did not receive a vote in the Senate. That bill would have made the same violation a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

The legislation’s statement of purpose says it addresses the issue of ballot harvesting, which is a term for collecting absentee or mail ballots and delivering them to county offices for counting. According to the statement, Idaho does not have significant problems with ballot harvesting, but Moyle said the bill would create more security for Idaho elections.

Democrats who voted against the bill said it was unnecessary and would make voting more difficult for elderly individuals and people with disabilities who might need extra help delivering a ballot.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said she has dropped off ballots for many voters in the past without ever knowing if they voted for her or not, and she thought the law still went too far.

“Even a misdemeanor can mess with people’s lives. There are jobs you can’t get, places you can’t travel to if you have a misdemeanor on your record or a felony,” Rubel said. “I don’t think we should be making crimes out of things that aren’t bad. In fact, I really don’t think we should be making good deeds into crimes. I think crimes should be things that people viscerally know are bad.”

The bill text states the law does not apply to election officials, U.S. Postal Service or other parcel delivery workers, a member of the same household or someone who is related to the voter by blood, adoption or marriage. But even those individuals are not permitted to collect more than six ballots at a time, and if anyone is found to have collected more than 10 ballots, they could be charged with a felony.

“In Idaho, voting should be easy. But in Idaho, cheating should be hard,” Moyle said on the House floor, which contradicted his statement from the 2021 legislative session during floor debate on the previous bill when he said, “So, you have to make two trips to the post office. I understand that concern. But you know what, voting shouldn’t be easy.”

The bill next heads to the Senate for its consideration.