Bill to create full voter guide for Idaho elections introduced by Secretary of State’s office

Guide would include candidate information and more detail on initiatives, proposed amendments

By: - February 10, 2023 3:19 pm
Phil McGrane

In this file photo, then-candidate for Idaho Secretary of State and Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane speaks with an attendee at the Idaho GOP election night watch party at the Grove in Boise, Idaho on Nov. 8, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane said his highest budget priority for his office this fiscal year is the development and funding for a statewide voter guide to be distributed prior to an election.

The Senate State Affairs Committee printed a bill Friday morning that would help him accomplish that goal.

McGrane said the funding that would allow his office to distribute the guides will be considered by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, but the details of what information the guide would include is contained in the bill.

Senate Bill 1078 is estimated to cost $750,000 for the design, production and dissemination of the guide, according to the bill’s fiscal note, a cost that would be incurred for primary and general election years.

The bill text states that the guide would contain the following information:

  • A complete copy of the title and text of ballot initiatives or referendum measures, with a fiscal impact statement summary, the sponsor’s proposed method of funding for applicable measures, and a copy of arguments for and against each measure submitted.
  • For constitutional amendments, a presentation of the major arguments submitted by the state’s legislative council and the text of the proposed amendment.  
  • The names of candidates for state and federal offices.
  • If submitted by candidates, a statement with fewer than 200 words, the campaign’s contact information, and the candidate’s photograph, which cannot be more than four years old.
  • Any additional information relating to elections that is required by law and/or deemed informative by the Idaho secretary of state.

The guides would be distributed no later than 30 days before a primary or general election and would be delivered to every household in the state, and copies would be available at local county clerks’ offices, according to the bill text.

Voter guide mockup
A mockup version of the proposed voter guide that would be disseminated during Idaho’s primary and general elections. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)

Candidate profile mockup
A mockup of the candidate information section of the proposed voter guide. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)

Full voter guide would help all Idahoans, including candidates, secretary says

McGrane, who was the Ada County clerk for four years, said the request for a voter guide was “far and away” the question he receives most often, especially because states across the West, including Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and California, all print voter guides with similar content.

“Everybody asks, ‘Where’s my voter guide?’” McGrane said.

Idaho sends out a short voter guide for general elections that includes constitutional amendment, advisory vote and ballot initiative information, but no candidate information.

McGrane told the Idaho Capital Sun on Friday that along with the demand from residents for a guide, he has seen other entities “fill the void” with their own publications, such as The Idahoan and The People’s Pen, two publications connected to heavily partisan influences.

“By being the entity that people file with and having even statewide distribution, we’re in a better position to gather that information from candidates,” McGrane told the Sun.

McGrane said the idea has received positive reception so far from lawmakers and residents he has spoken to, including former candidates for office who have had trouble making themselves known to the public.

“For many candidates, being able to get your information out is hard, and this is kind of evening the playing field for people,” he said.

The budget meeting for the secretary’s office will take place on Monday, McGrane said, and he expects a hearing on the accompanying bill in the coming weeks of the legislative session.


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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.