Two bills aimed at Idaho election process defeated in Senate committee
Senate Pro Tem pledges to work on interim committee to study election issues
Early voting for the 2022 primary elections begins May 2. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday defeated two election-related bills sponsored by Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, amid concerns about implementation and potential voter suppression.
Senate Bill 1375 would have made several changes to voter identification law, including a new requirement for voters to present an Idaho driver’s license or identification card with the voter’s current address; disallowing the use of student or military IDs; disallowing signed affidavits in lieu of photo ID; and requiring those who registered to vote online or by mail to vote in person for the first election in which they participate.
Souza, who is running to be Idaho’s next secretary of state, said the measures would provide additional election security, even though she acknowledged the bill was a preventative measure and not a fix for existing issues.
“I’m not saying, and I have never said, that there are problems that have been proven fraud in Idaho,” Souza told the committee. She likened the legislation to an open garage door at her home in Coeur d’Alene.
“We go and look and we say, ‘Nothing was stolen, and wild turkeys haven’t moved in,’ … and do we leave the door open just because there were no problems?” Souza said. “No, we close the door.”
The bill would have also required county clerks to visit the home of voters who registered online and could not vote in person because of a disability or illness. That requirement concerned Idaho County Clerk Kathy Ackerman, who spoke on behalf of the Idaho Association of County Recorders and Clerks.
“The message here seems to be, we don’t trust Idaho voters, and we don’t trust them so much that we’re going to send someone to their house,” Ackerman told the committee. “I’m not certain that’s going to play out well among Idahoans.”
She added that the vast majority of county clerks in Idaho are women, and additional security measures would need to be in place to make sure they were safe entering the homes of voters. The fiscal note for the bill estimated it would cost about $16,000 to provide identification cards for people who can’t afford them, but that amount did not include potential costs of sending clerks to people’s homes.
For the proposal to work, voter addresses could become public. Idaho law currently allows some voters to make their registered address private.
Idaho resident Jennifer Beazer testified on that issue, saying she has been part of Idaho’s address confidentiality program in the past because she left an abusive husband who went on to kill his two elderly parents in Nampa. Without the option to keep her address off of public forms and vote absentee, Beazer said she would have been too afraid to vote.
Souza asked the committee to send the bill to the Senate, with the ability to make a few changes once it was there, but that motion failed on a 5-4 vote.
‘This problem doesn’t exist,’ Idaho County clerk says
Senate Bill 1376 would have added restrictions to who can drop off absentee ballots on behalf of another person and to how many ballots may be delivered at one time. A person who mailed or delivered more than five absentee ballots in addition to their own could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, while 20 or more ballots would be considered a felony.
“What if the person forgets their ID and it’s 7:58 (p.m.) on Election Day? This sets the stage for criminal charges,” Ackerman said in her testimony on that bill. “Again, this problem doesn’t exist. There are mechanisms in place. Again, lots of sweeping changes that we really hope we are part of before any drastic changes are implemented or passed.”
The committee members voted 7-2 to hold the bill and not advance it to the Senate floor. Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, voted against holding the bill but pledged to work with the Idaho House of Representatives’ leadership about forming a joint interim committee after this legislative session that would allow clerks and other stakeholders to discuss election security.
“I think that is important,” Winder said.
During this legislative session, 64 election-related bills have been printed, but few have become law. Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, introduced a third version of a voter identification bill that could be heard in the House State Affairs Committee next week. Other election bills from the House, including a bill making it a misdemeanor to turn in absentee ballots for anyone who is not a family member or roommate, have not received a hearing in the Senate.
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