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Politics & Government

Committee signs off on bills adding more voting restrictions

A "vote here" sign with an arrow pointing to the left stands in a parking lot where some bikes are parked at bike racks. The Boise foothills can be seen in the distance.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

Another pair of bills adding further voting restrictions in Idaho is heading to the House floor.

One proposal from Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) would force voters to prove their U.S. citizenship before they could cast a ballot. That means they would need to bring to the polls sensitive documents, like a passport, birth certificate or naturalization papers if they wanted to register on Election Day.

“If one illegal vote gets in and cancels out your legal vote, that is wrong and that is part of this election integrity,” Moon said.

Republicans across the country have made election security and integrity central issues of their platforms over the past year due to unfounded accusations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Moon said the new system she’s proposing wouldn’t be a burden.

“You have all the opportunity in the world to go into the clerk’s office and register to vote,” said Moon. “You have all the opportunity to carry your ballots in, out, all around and get them back to the clerk.”

A previous version of her bill would have completely eliminated same-day voter registration – a process that’s been in place for decades and was pushed by Republicans in 1994 to avoid federal regulations.

That previous version also would have added a provisional ballot system to Idaho’s election laws, meaning a person who couldn’t verify their identity immediately would be able to vote. They’d then have a certain amount of time to prove that to county elections officials for their vote to count.

Moon’s latest bill drops the provisional system, but it also eliminates the ability for someone to sign an affidavit at the polls attesting they are who they say they are before they cast a ballot.

Several students testified against the measures, including Isabella Fardette, a junior at Boise High School.

“By putting this bill into motion, you are showing that you truly don’t value one’s voting rights and the democracy this country has formed,” said Fardette. “Couldn’t one imply that that itself is anti-American?”

Another bill from Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird) would be illegal for counties to use drop-off boxes to collect absentee ballots. Currently, it’s up to each county elections office to decide if it wants to offer that service to its residents.

Her supporters worry these drop-off boxes aren’t secure and could invite fraud or attempts at vandalism.

Meanwhile, some rural counties use drop-off boxes to make it more convenient who would otherwise have to drive long distances to deliver their ballots to their elections offices.

These bills join others that have already passed by the House earlier this year, which could significantly reshape Idaho’s upcoming May primary.

One of those under consideration in the Senate would prevent unaffiliated voters from changing their party affiliation on Election Day, effectively barring them from casting a ballot in the closed Republican primary.

About one-third of Idaho’s voters are unaffiliated with any political party.

Another bill awaiting action in the Senate would make it a crime to handle someone else’s absentee ballot unless you’re a direct relative or live with the person. Even then, they’re subjected to only handling a few absentee ballots at a time, or they could face criminal prosecution.

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

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