Idaho House kills bill that would have restricted voting by absentee ballot
More than 129,000 Idahoans voted by absentee ballot in the November election
The Idaho State Capitol building on January 11, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho House of Representatives killed a bill Monday that would have placed strict restrictions on who could vote using absentee ballots or even request an absentee ballot.
The Idaho House voted 30-40 to kill House Bill 205, which would have prohibited Idahoans from voting by absentee ballot for convenience. Instead, if the bill had passed, Idahoans would have needed to meet one of a handful conditions to vote by absentee ballot, including serving in the U.S. armed forces, illness, disability or hospitalization, serving a religious mission, staying a second home they own or having to work or attend university classes.
In November’s general election, 129,210 of the 599,493 votes cast were cast by absentee ballot, representing about 21% of all votes.
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Rep. Joe Alfieri, a first-term Republican from Coeur d’Alene, sponsored House Bill 205, saying it was necessary to prevent voter fraud. Alfieri said it would be easy for hackers to steal someone’s personal information, request an absentee ballot, forge a voter’s signature and vote fraudulently — practices which are already illegal.
Alfieri said in-person voting is more secure because voters must present photo identification (or sign a voter identification affidavit).
Unless his bill passes, Alfieri warned Idaho could be “on the precipice” of experiencing voter fraud that he alleged was widespread in other places.
“Our goal here is to preserve our republic,” Alfieri said in his debate. “And the way our republic functions is through the voting process. It should not be a convenience. Our republic, our country, our state is much more important than that.”
Opponents of bill say Idaho elections are secure and voting shouldn’t be more difficult
But many legislators, including a several Republicans, said Idaho has secure elections and voting is a fundamental right that should not be made more difficult to exercise.
“So, I heard a lot of concern about what might happen, what could happen, what’s happened in other places. What I didn’t hear is what’s happened in Idaho,” Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, said in her floor debate against the bill. “And to the best of my knowledge, no examples have been shared that indicate that there is an issue with how Idaho conducts its elections.”
In her debate, Raybould asked legislators to consider whether its fair to ask Idaho grandparents to make a judgment about whether visiting grandkids out of state is a qualifier to be eligible to vote by absentee ballot, or to ask Idahoans to understand whether or not their condition meets the state’s definition of illness or disability. Raybould also pointed out that anyone who supplies false information on a request for an absentee ballot is already breaking federal and state election laws and subject to a $50,000 fine or imprisonment.
“So here is the question I am asking: Are we really comfortable with potentially making the fellow citizens in our state accidental criminals because we put forward a bill that adds unneeded complexity to a system that is currently not at risk of fraud, has not experienced fraud and has worked just fine for the citizens of this state as is?” Raybould asked.
“We could keep going down this rabbit hole of all of the things that could happen,” Raybould added. “I am inclined to focus on the things that have happened in this state and what has happened are secure elections. That’s what I am standing for and that’s why I will be voting ‘no’ on 205.”
Because House Bill 205 failed to receive the support of the majority of members of the Idaho House, it is dead for the session and will not be sent to the Idaho Senate for consideration.
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