Legislation making voting less accessible in Idaho

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Idaho State legislators from the house and senate introduced legislation this previous week that could complicate voting accessibility, particularly for young people, across the Gem State. House Bill 0075 aims to eliminate “no-excuse absentee ballots”. The bill asserts that absentee ballots open Idaho up to potential voter fraud, however no instances of voter fraud as a result of the use of absentee ballots has been recorded in Idaho.

The Idaho State elections website states, “The office of Secretary of State has taken several steps to prevent and identify voter fraud. Cases of voter impersonation, non-citizen voting, double voting, and other types of voter fraud are rare. In Idaho, nearly all incidents of suspected voter fraud turn out to be mistakes rather than cases of intentional fraud”. The bill also claims that as high as 30% of votes in the most recent election were placed via absentee ballots. Aside from claims of voter fraud potential that are not factually supported, the intended impact of restricting absentee ballots is unclear. Additionally, the bill’s statement of purpose and bill text are ambiguous in nature, stating that the purpose of absentee ballots is to aid individuals who are “...unable to vote for reasons beyond their control”, however it is unclear how such circumstances would be defined and at whose discretion absentee ballots would be approved for individuals.

Additionally, House Bill 0054, which was also recently drafted, aims to eliminate the use of student ID cards as a valid form of identification at the polls. Currently, according to published material on their websites, Boise State University, the University of Idaho, the College of Idaho, North Idaho College, and other Idaho schools require students to provide two forms of government ID in order to acquire a student ID. Additionally, many colleges and universities require a social security number in order for students to apply and enroll. This is an interesting move that comes on the heels of House Judiciary Chair Representative Bruce Skaug’s controversial decision to prohibit minors from testifying on Idaho Legislation. Following intense lash back, Skaug revised his rule to permit minors to testify if they have written parental approval. His rule, even in its revised state, remains largely unpopular, especially with young voters and minors impacted by the rule.

Despite the lack of evidence of voter fraud, Idaho legislators have proposed multiple pieces of legislation that would create more stringent access to voting.