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House Committee approves new absentee ballot restrictions

A hand holding a pen filling out a voting ballot.
Jens Alfke

No one, except for county or state officials, would be able to hand out absentee ballot requests in Idaho under a bill heading to the House floor.

Currently, voters may ask for an absentee ballot online, where they verify their identity using their state-issued ID card number and the last four digits of their Social Security number, or by contacting their county clerk's office.

Rep. Kevin Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs), who sponsors the bill, said keeping applications out of the hands of political parties or third-party groups will help prevent voter fraud.

Idaho records very few cases of voter fraud according to the Secretary of State’s office, which opposes the measure.

Deputy Secretary of State Jason Lehosit said it will have unintended consequences.

“Does this mean a family member cannot give an absentee request to another family member? Does this mean a church cannot pass out absentee requests to missionaries? Does this mean the military cannot pass out absentee requests to service members?” Lehosit asked.

Other questions raised during Tuesday morning’s hearing included how this could affect voters with special needs, disabilities or who don’t have internet access to request a ballot themselves.

Despite assurances that voter fraud isn’t a problem here, Republican Rep. Brent Crane said that doesn’t mean the legislature shouldn’t be proactive.

“Do we need to wait until there’s fraud before we can prosecute for fraud, or should we be looking to prevent fraud?”

“I’m tired of campaigns filling out the absentee ballot on a direct mail piece and sending that out to everybody and all they have to do is sign it and send it back in, postage paid, etc,” Crane said.

Three Republicans, Reps. Joe Alfieri (R-Coeur d’Alene), Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) and Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) joined the lone Democrat, Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise), in opposing it.

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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