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Idaho House votes to ban absentee ballot drop boxes

A white ballot dropbox with a sticker that has the American flag and "Absentee Ballot Drop Box" on it.
Boise State Public Radio

State lawmakers put absentee ballot drop-off boxes on the chopping block Monday as the House voted to ban their use by counties in future elections.

Instead, voters would have to mail absentee ballots to their county clerks by Election Day or deliver them in-person to be counted.

“This is just one, small step that we can take to reassure voters of election security in Idaho,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird).

Giddings said the state has no uniform laws related to drop-off boxes. Some are under 24-hour surveillance, though others are not.

Some boxes also contain fire suppression technology in the case of attempted arson, though it's unclear if all of them do.

After the all-absentee primary election in 2020, Giddings said there’s no need to have drop-off boxes, though other Republicans disagreed.

Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) said the proposal would hurt her constituents who live miles and miles away from their county elections office.

“They were really efficient for rural areas,” said Blanksma, noting drop-off boxes specifically in Elmore and Owyhee counties. “They gave us options so that we could get those ballots in without using the mail.”

She and other critics also worried that definitions in the bill could apply to federal mailboxes.

In Owyhee County, which is larger in land mass than six U.S. states and sparsely populated, some people might have to drive a few hours – one way – to travel to Murphy, the county seat, to deliver their ballot.

But Rep. Karey Hanks (R-St. Anthony) countered her argument, saying combating voter fraud is more important.

“Sometimes, convenience isn’t the best option. Let’s secure our elections as much as we can so that we don’t have questions about them,” Hanks said.

Unfounded accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election by pillow salesman Mike Lindell spurred a hand recount in three counties last year by the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

Officials found no fraud in the election in which former President Donald Trump won the state with nearly 64 percent of the vote.

The proposal still needs approval by the Senate and Gov. Brad Little to become law.

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!

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