During the legislature’s first month four bills passed both Houses; another 38 passed one. That leaves a couple hundred bills sitting in committees; about a third will die there.
So I'd usually wait until a bad bill is scheduled for committee action before getting alarmed. But there’s a voter suppression act in the House State Affairs committee that frightens me.
I’m proud Idaho has same-day registration, reasonable requirements for voter IDs, and bipartisan reapportionment. And I like knowing that there is a printout showing our votes in case a recount is needed.
So when a senator claims, as Sen. Regina Bayer did, that Idaho ranks 37th among the states in election integrity, she got my attention. Bayer is co-sponsor of HB 549 with Rep. Dorothy Moon of the “Secure Election Act”.
Just who ranked us 37th? Well, the Heritage Foundation’s rankings online show Idaho 38th with Georgia and Florida in the top ten and Washington and Oregon near the bottom.
Not surprising for a foundation that claims election fraud is everywhere, counts same day registration as a negative, and posts recommended fill-in-the-blank legislative bills.
A Harvard study group that ranks 10 different characteristics–ranging from election
procedures to voter registration to media coverage–placed Idaho second in the nation in 2016.
That felt good to see.
But the state ranked 24th in 2018. Idaho scored below average in categories that included measures like balanced media coverage; electoral financing not dominated by the rich; and genuine choice at the ballot box.
But HB 549 doesn’t address those areas.
I was surprised at Rep. Moon’s attack blasting same-day registration as “a policy crafted by liberal interest groups that has led to increased voter fraud and ballot manipulation.” When have ‘liberal interest groups’ made Idaho’s laws?
Former Sec. of State Ben Ysursa, as reported by Betsy Z. Russell, cleared that question up. Idaho legislators passed same-day registration in 1994 to become exempt from new Clinton-era federal regulations that would require the Department of Motor Vehicles and Health and Welfare to offer registration to everyone seeking their services.
That exemption also makes it legal for Idaho to purge voter rolls of those who’ve moved or haven’t voted in four years. Mistakes are no big deal when a person can simply re-register and vote. (A clause in the Federal biil does allow non-exempt states to purge felons.)
Statements by both Rep. Moon and Sen. Bayer were more concerned with boosting their conservative credentials than with truth.
And their nightmare of a bill doesn’t stop with eliminating same day registration.
Registering to vote would require naturalization documents, a tribal ID card, a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, or a state ID or drivers’ license that verifies citizenship. Photocopies of birth certificates and passports would be allowed, but, apparently, election officials must see originals of other forms of ID (from 9 to 5, M-F?).
Members of the Armed Services registering for the first time may only vote for candidates for Federal offices unless they submit an acceptable photocopy (or show other ID at the elections’ office?).
This opens Idaho up to lawsuits. Fees to get a correct ID can be considered a poll tax. (Currently, one must affirm citizenship to vote; the penalty for lying may be deportation, incarceration, or fines.)
Ballots of those who don’t present photo ID and proof of residence at the polls will be invalid if the voter doesn’t present ID at the elections’ office within 10 days. So, when many don’t bother presenting ID after election winners are announced, Idaho Republicans can finally claim they’ve found evidence of attempts at fraud.