Republicans target same-day voter registration in Idaho
Sweeping changes would be made to state elections under two bills introduced Monday morning, including eliminating Idahoans’ long-held ability to register to vote on Election Day.
A bill from Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) would force eligible voters to register 30 days prior an election. County clerks could register someone to vote in-person four days before an election.
Same-day voter registration has been legal in Idaho for nearly 30 years.
“Election integrity is at the forefront of every Americans’ mind and the Secure Election Act tackles the hard problems embedded in Idaho’s election law,” said Moon, who’s running to become Idaho’s next secretary of state.
She did not mention this change while introducing her bill Monday.
By forcing voters to register prior to an election, Moon's proposal would also eliminate the ability of an unaffiliated voter to change their party affiliation at the polls.
Counties would also have to implement a provisional ballot system – meaning a person’s vote could be thrown out if they don’t prove their identity.
Moon was asked if someone has committed voter fraud here.
“Whether it’s happened in Idaho, we don’t want it to,” she said.
Under the proposal, a person would have 10 days to return to their county clerk’s office and verify their identity and residency.
But state law requires county commissioners to canvas all votes in a primary or presidential primary election within seven days.
Moon said she discussed the bill with Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck prior to introducing it Monday, but he said he never received a copy.
Houck said he recently met with her in his office for a few minutes, where she outlined terms of the bill in general.
Counties in Idaho run their own elections independently from the state and from each other. In certain races that can span multiple counties, like legislative positions and congressional seats, provisional ballots, Houck said, could add “interesting potential delays from an operational standpoint.”
“Each county currently operates in a silo on election night,” he said, meaning in close races, they’d suddenly need to check how many provisional ballots other counties might have before releasing preliminary results.
Moon’s bill would immediately take effect after being signed into law, meaning it could affect this year’s primary races.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star) also revived his proposal from last year making it illegal to pay someone to collect absentee ballots.
A similar bill passed the House last year, but it failed in the Senate.
“They felt that a felony was pretty harsh. I don’t,” Moyle said.
Under the new bill, someone caught with more than 10 ballots would be charged with a felony. Household members could collect up to six ballots, but they could be charged with a misdemeanor if they try to handle between seven and nine ballots at a time.
Democrats and several Republicans opposed the bill last year over concerns that it made voting unnecessarily harder.
During debate in 2021, House Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) said this could put an undue burden on larger, rural families.
“So, you have to make two trips to the post office. I understand that concern,” Moyle said at the time. “But you know what, voting shouldn’t be easy.”
Both measures still need public hearings to move to the full House.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio
Member support is what makes local COVID-19 reporting possible. Support this coverage here.