Idaho Senate committee approves post-election audits bill
Committee also approved credit and debit card payments for candidate filing fees
Voters enter Whittier Elementary to cast their ballots in Boise on Nov. 2, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Senate State Affairs Committee advanced two bills Wednesday morning related to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, including a new law that would require post-election audits of a random selection of counties after a general or primary election.
Senate Bill 1274 was introduced to the committee by Deputy Secretary of State Jason Hancock, who said the audits would increase public confidence in election results, and it’s a practice that many states have already implemented.
“We take election integrity very seriously at the Secretary of State’s office, we take allegations of election insecurity very seriously, and … we have a lot of people right now who think we have problems with our election system,” Hancock said.
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Following the presidential election in 2020, former President Donald Trump and his supporters have alleged voter fraud and other conspiracies they say led to President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Ten Idaho legislators signed a letter in October calling for a 50-state audit of the election results. Election results have been audited in several states, including Idaho, and no fraud has been found.
Under the new bill, the audits would be open to attendance by media personnel, candidates and representatives from political parties. The exact procedures for the audits would be developed with county clerks, according to the bill text.
Counties would be randomly selected each year according to population, with a certain number from counties with populations between 10,000 and 100,000 people and counties with more than 100,000 people.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane spoke in favor of the bill as a representative of the Idaho Association of County Recorders and Clerks. McGrane said the number of tours he has given of the elections office in Ada County over the past year to answer questions and reassure residents has exploded.
The committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, but Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said he thought the reasons behind the legislation were unfortunate. While he said the Secretary of State’s office has neither underreacted or overreacted to the issues that have cropped up since the 2020 election, he thinks the audits are responsible and appropriate.
“Having said that, I regret that we are here. There’s a reason why Idaho was one of those handful of states that didn’t have audits. We used to be a state that had a strong statewide community and strong local communities where people knew each other and trusted each other, and we knew we didn’t have a problem with elections,” Burgoyne said. “… This legislation is necessary, it’s just too bad.”
The bill includes an emergency clause, meaning it would go into effect immediately if it is signed into law.
Bill would add credit, debit cards to forms of payment for Idaho candidate filing fees
The committee also heard Senate Bill 1273, which adds credit cards and debit cards to the methods by which candidates for office may pay their filing fees when filing as a candidate for office. Hancock said under existing Idaho law, the office cannot accept credit or debit cards as a form of payment.
If the change is enacted, the cost of the card processing fees would be passed on to the filer, and the Secretary of State’s office anticipates approximately 300 candidates for various offices statewide, which would bring approximately $27,000 in revenue to the General Fund.
Senators unanimously sent that bill to the floor as well, and it will receive a vote in the coming days of the session. The bill includes an emergency clause, meaning it would go into effect immediately if it is signed into law.
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