House committee approves 2 election restriction bills

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

The House State Affairs Committee approved two pieces of legislation Wednesday relating to election security.

HB 693, pitched by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, would prohibit the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots. The bill passed in a 10-3 vote, with Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, being the only Republican to vote no.

Giddings said she wanted people to vote as much as possible, but “we also need secure and fair elections.” She said drop boxes could compromise election integrity. 

Owyhee County Clerk Angela Barkell testified against the bill, noting that without a drop box, some voters in her county may have to drive an hour to drop off their absentee ballot.  

Absentee ballots may be sent via the U.S. Postal Service, but Barkell said sometimes people delay mailing their ballots and fear the postal service may not deliver them by election day. 

Furniss pointed to opposition from every county clerk in his district when explaining his no vote.

State Affairs also approved a bill on legal identification for voter registration on a party-line vote. Among other changes, HB 692 would prohibit the use of signed affidavits for same-day voter registration.  

Under current law, a new voter may register at the polls by signing an affidavit after providing proof of residency. This proposal would require proof of citizenship at the poll to register the same day as the election.

The 20-page bill, sponsored by Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, proposes other changes, including requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote, such as a copy of a birth certificate, a U.S. passport, or naturalization documents. It also prohibits the use of a student ID from a postsecondary institution as a valid form of identification to use. Student ID’s are currently a valid form of ID for Idaho voters.

The proposal would also allow the Idaho Transportation Department to provide a free 4-year identification card for voting purposes, if a person doesn’t have a driver’s license or state ID.

Multiple people in testimony expressed concern about whether the DMV would be prepared for that in time for the election.

The bills each have an emergency clause, meaning any changes would take effect immediately should the bill become become law, changing the statute and rules before the May primary election.

All those who testified on Moon’s bill opposed the legislation. 

Moon is running for secretary of state in May’s Republican primary.

The bills must now go before the full House of Representatives.

<strong>Ruth Brown</strong> | Producer
Ruth Brown | Producer

Ruth Brown grew up in South Dakota and her first job out of college was covering the South Dakota Legislature. She’s since moved on to Idaho lawmakers. Brown spent 10 years working in print journalism, including newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press, where she’s covered everything from the correctional system to health care issues. She joined Idaho Reports in 2021 and looks forward to telling stories about how state policy can impact the lives of regular Idahoans.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: