The Idaho House is pushing pause on a bill that would outlaw a practice known to critics as "ballot harvesting."
Ballot harvesting, or what some call ballot collecting, is when you fill out an absentee ballot, sign it and then give it to someone else to drop off at an official collection point.
Healthcare workers in Idaho, for instance, did this for patients who were unexpectedly hospitalized on Election Day last year.
The bill would make it a felony to do so if enacted. Family members could only drop off two ballots at a time.
“We are trying to prevent with this bill Idaho going down the road that other states have gone down,” said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star), who sponsors the bill. “Do we have a problem today? Maybe not. But let’s fix it before we do.”
Moyle referenced last year’s presidential election – the results of which Trump allies have baselessly argued were illegal. As of last month, courts had rejected more than 60 attempts in states across the country to overturn the election results.
Debate over the proposal showed fault lines within the House’s Republican supermajority.
House Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) explained that her closest polling location had been closed last November due to consolidation. Her family, which includes her husband and two adult children, all received absentee ballots at their home 20 miles outside of Hammett.
Not trusting that the U.S. Postal Service would deliver their ballots to the Elmore County Clerk’s office by the deadline, she chose a different option.
“You send your kid. If there’s any possible way of getting out of that trip into town you’re going to take it because your kid has a driver’s license,” Blanksma said.
“With this legislation, my daughter’s a felon. A 20-year-old kid is a felon.”
Moyle acknowledged that reality.
“So, you have to make two trips to the post office. I understand that concern,” he said. “But you know what, voting shouldn’t be easy.”
Other Republicans who said they supported the concept of barring ballot harvesting had concerns similar to those of Blanksma.
Two legislators on opposite sides of the political spectrum – Rep. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) and House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) both said they had dropped off ballots this past election cycle as a service to their constituents.
Rubel argues any kind of voter fraud that might happen when someone other than the voter drops off their ballot is already a felony under Idaho law.
“Their ballot is their property – arguably one of the most sacred pieces of property in our democracy – and if they want to ask a trusted friend or neighbor to drop it off for them, that should be their freedom and their right,” she said.
Noting that the Idaho legislature has more than a month left before it’s scheduled to adjourn, Blanksma pleaded with her colleagues to revise the bill.
“Let’s stop it, let’s redraft, let’s do it right.”
House lawmakers didn’t vote on the issue Thursday, though they could amend the bill at a later date.
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