A measure limiting early voting in Idaho is on its way to the House floor after squeaking through a skeptical legislative panel. Freshman Republican Rep. Dustin Manwaring, of Pocatello, says his bill creates a standardized system for early voting that’s lacking in Idaho. “This is a new layer of consistency that we’re adding. We’ll actually increase voter access to the polls and fairness because we’ll have that consistency statewide in our counties when early voting will be open to the public,” Manwaring said. If passed, Idaho’s early voting window could take place any time from three weeks prior to the election to one week before. Currently, county clerks have the choice to begin early voting on or before the third week from the election. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of early voting start dates across the state, with the majority of smaller counties choosing not to open the polls early to save on costs.
“The trend is, generally, early voters vote close to election day, it starts slow and then it ramps up,” said Phil McGrane, chief deputy clerk of Ada County, the state’s most populated county. “I don’t know if four weeks, five weeks really makes that much of a difference.”
McGrane, who has been an avid supporter of expanding early voting in Idaho, said that he thinks it’s more beneficial to expand opportunities for early voting rather than lengthening the timeframe. For example, McGrane implemented mobile voting stations, similar to food trucks, during Ada County’s early voting period in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.