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Politics & Government

GOP lawmakers revive bill adding restrictions for unaffiliated voters

A man walking down a street in downtown Boise where there is a "vote here" sign.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

Republican lawmakers have revived a bill that would force Idaho voters to choose their political party well ahead of an election.

Right now, unaffiliated voters can sign up as a party member on Election Day, which Republicans require for their primary. But this bill would lock in a voter’s party affiliation months before an election.

If approved and signed into law, the deadline to change your party affiliation for the May 2022 primary would be March 11.

The proposal stalled in a House committee earlier this year after Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R-Genesee) dropped her sponsorship.

Rep. Doug Okuniewicz (R-Hayden) took her place. He acknowledges not many voters change their affiliation.

“Most of those folks aren’t doing this, but it’s a real problem where folks are gaming the system and wanting to make a choice at the last second and then switch back real quick so they’re not embarrassed or whatever,” Okuniewicz said.

As of January, unaffiliated voters make up a third of Idaho’s electorate.

Opponents said the bill goes against democratic values, but a House committee overruled their objections Monday.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration.

The proposal is one of several bills Idaho lawmakers are considering that would add more restrictions to voting rights in the state.

One wide-reaching piece of legislation would eliminate same-day voter registration, require voters to prove their citizenship at the polls and remove a student I.D. card from the list of acceptable forms of identification.

Another would criminalize anyone outside of your household from carrying your absentee ballot to the post office or county drop-off box. Even household members, though, would be limited to carrying six ballots at a time.

Getting caught with more than 10 ballots would be a felony.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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