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Problems with Idaho election laws--intended or not?

This year over 300 bills restricting voting were introduced in 45 states (Brennan Center, June 14). Republican legislators across the country sought to restrict access to mail voting, impose strict voter ID requirements, and increase the purging of voter rolls. Texas even considered increasing the maximum number of voters assigned to one polling place in order to increase the likelihood of long lines and depressed voter turnout in cities.

And Idaho’s law on initiatives and referendums no longer ranks as the most restrictive in the nation. Florida now requires an initiative petition to get signatures from 25% of voters; Arizona now requires initiatives that would raise taxes to pass by a 60% majority. On the other hand, over 550 bills to expand voter access were introduced in 49 states. These bills would extend voting rights to people with past felony convictions or expand access to voting early, curbside, or by mail.

The Idaho legislature passed two restrictive voting bills this year, SB 124 and SB340. The first made student IDs unacceptable as proof of residency. After all, a person may have a driver’s license issued in one county and a student ID in another. The second, supposedly, just made it possible to get an Idaho ID without charge if it's for voting.

So why would the BABE VOTE organization stop registering young people to vote?

Somehow, SB 340 has resulted in a third class of citizens: besides registered and unregistered, we now have registered lacking proof of residency.

Previously, elections offices mailed newly registered voters non-forwardable postcards with their precinct name and their voting location. If the postcard was not deliverable as addressed, the person’s status was changed from registered to non-registered. That part of the law hasn’t changed.

But delivery is no longer accepted as proof of address.

Now election personnel must see proof of each person’s address–state ID, driver’s license or utility bill–for them to be fully registered. (There’s some question whether that requirement is fulfilled in registering online.)

Those people who vote in person and use a state ID or driver’s license as the picture ID required to vote, won’t see a difference. But a person may believe they are registered, but still not be able to receive an absentee ballot or legally sign a petition for a ballot measure.

So, according to one source, Canyon County Elections will notify every voter whose registration is flagged as lacking proof of address so they can bring their proof of residence to the Elections Office between 8 am and 5 pm on weekdays. That may be a hardship for some, especially workers, but Republicans believe voting should be difficult.

We may end up paying for this by cutting staffing on election days and increasing voter wait beyond the current 90 minutes now common in Canyon County.

It’s one of two major errors in this year’s election laws. Legislators eliminated the March presidential primary without completing all steps moving it to May–then they adjourned. Instead of planning a special session, this summer’s Republican convention has arranged for caucuses to replace the presidential primary “just in case.”

Idaho Democrats had their last presidential caucus in 2016, primarily because getting all the voters for a county in one place at the same time is impossible. Ada County’s last caucus was larger than any other in the nation–yet involved only about 20% as many voters as show up for a primary.

Do Republicans lack a clue–or have a plan?

Meanwhile, Democrats will continue to register voters–and warn them they will have to submit proof of address.

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