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Idaho House approves 2 voter restriction bills

A red and white "Vote Here" sign with bike racks and mountains in the background.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho House lawmakers passed two bills Monday that would add significant voter restrictions ahead of this year’s consequential elections in which all statewide elected positions are up for grabs.

One would limit the ability of unaffiliated voters, which make up about one-third of Idaho’s electorate, to vote in the Republican party primary.

Under that proposal, unaffiliated voters would have to register as a Republican months ahead of time if they wanted to participate in the party’s closed primary. Currently, those who are unaffiliated with any political party can register with one on Election Day.

Rep. Doug Okuniewicz (R-Hayden) said those who are unaffiliated should play by the same rules as other voters.

“None of these other parties have the ability to do that,” said Okuniewicz. “Why does one group of voters have that ability? It’s just not fair.”

But many Republicans, like Rep. Linda Wright Hartgen (R-Twin Falls), disagreed.

“To say to the [unaffiliated] that you have got to sign up right now because you must know who you’re going to vote for is disenfranchising them,” Hartgen said.

If approved by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, the bill would take effect immediately.

A second bill would outlaw so-called ballot harvesting in Idaho. That’s the practice of someone aside from the voter themselves delivering other people's absentee ballots to a county elections office.

Anyone aside from a letter carrier or an elections official found handling more than 10 ballots could be charged with a felony. Those living in the same household or family members could handle up to six ballots at a time without penalty.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star) sponsors this bill and brought a similar proposal last year. During debate in 2021, Moyle said “voting shouldn’t be easy.”

He modified that statement Monday on the House floor.

“In Idaho, voting should be easy. But in Idaho, cheating should be hard,” Moyle said.

Critics say this would make it harder for those with disabilities to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

The bill now goes to the Senate where a similar bill was blocked last year.

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

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!