New bill in the Idaho Legislature would prohibit absentee ballot drop boxes
When pressed, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, the legislation’s sponsor, could not give examples of security issues in Idaho
An early voting dropbox outside Boise City Hall on May 5, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Mountain Sun)
An Idaho state legislator who is running for lieutenant governor wants to prohibit the use of absentee ballot drop boxes.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, is sponsoring a new bill, which she said is designed to protect election integrity. The new bill is not yet available online but will be posted once it is read across the desk of the House floor and assigned a bill number on Monday morning.
“This legislation would prohibit the use of drop boxes or similar drop off locations to collect absentee ballots,” Giddings told the House State Affairs Committee on Friday. “We have seen across the country where these situations could allow ballot harvesting, but also there are concerns that these locations may be an opportunity for somebody to disrupt your ballots, whether it were to catch fire or flood or maybe food is stuffed in there and it could contaminate ballots as well and so just several considerations here where these are probably not the best way to collect ballots.”
When pressed by Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, Giddings could not give any examples of any security issues or problems with absentee ballot drop boxes in Idaho.
“I am going to need to be convinced at a hearing that restricting the opportunity to vote is going to make Idaho’s elections any safer than they already are,” Mathias said. “I think that is going to be a pretty high threshold for me.”
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As for concerns in other states, Giddgings said video footage from Georgia shows people dropping multiple ballots in drop boxes.
“So the intent is to kind of get out in front of this to make sure we don’t have that happening in Idaho,” Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said during an introductory hearing over the bill Friday.
Ada County, the state’s most populated county, does use absentee ballot drop boxes, which resemble a mailbox and serve as a location where Idaho voters can drop off their absentee ballots without. In the November 2020 presidential election, more Ada County voters voted by absentee ballot (127,780) than on Election Day (80,926), according to Ada County election records. Not all absentee voters used a drop box; voters could also mail their ballot in or turn it in in-person.
Giddings said neither she nor the Secretary of State’s office has a list of all the Idaho counties that use ballot drop boxes.
This is the latest in a series of bills Republican legislators have pushed this year that would make numerous changes to voting and election procedures heading into the May 17 primary elections. Republicans who support the bills say they are necessary to protect the security of elections. Opponents have said they make it harder for people to vote and throw up roadblocks that could make it especially difficult for seniors who live in retirement communities, people who don’t have transportation, people who are ill or college students to vote in the upcoming primary election.
- House Bill 547, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, would make it illegal to turn in absentee ballots for a friend, co-worker, neighbor or fellow church member if you are not related to or living with the voter whose ballot is being turned in.
- House Bill 439, sponsored by Rep. Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden, and Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, would make it so that unaffiliated voters would no longer be able to affiliate with a party on the day of the primary election. In Idaho, voters must be affiliated with the Republican Party to vote in the closed Republican primary election. Souza is running for secretary of state this year.
- House Bill 549, sponsored by Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, would eliminate the ability of Idahoans to register to vote on Election Day at the polls. It would also make it so a student ID or signed voter affidavits are no longer accepted to vote. Moon, who is also running for secretary of state, introduced a rewritten version of House Bill 549 on Friday, but it has not yet received a bill number and is not available to view online until it is read across the desk of the House floor on Monday morning.
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The Republican Party has dominated Idaho elections for decades, controls a supermajority in the Idaho Legislature and holds every statewide elected office. In response to allegations challenging the accuracy of the November 2020 election, the Secretary of State’s Office issued a statement saying claims of widespread voter fraud lobbied by Mike Lindell, an ally of former President Donald J. Trump, were without merit.
“We jealously guard Idaho’s election integrity reputation, and this was a shot directly aimed at each state,” Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said in a written statement in October. “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. Doing nothing and saying nothing would have been like conceding its truth.”
On Friday the State Affairs Committee voted to introduce Giddings’ bill on absentee ballot drop boxes, which clears the way for the bill to return to the committee for a full public hearing.
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