HB 150, the House-passed bill that sought to limit early voting in Idaho counties so that it could occur only from three weeks before an election to one week before, ran into trouble in the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning. Sen. Marv Hagedorn’s motion to pass the bill died for lack of a second. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, then moved to send the bill to the Senate’s amending order for changes, to expand it to add another week of possible early voting time for counties; Hagedorn seconded the motion. Sen. Todd Lakey spoke against the motion. “This seems to be more about the convenience for the candidate than for the electorate,” he said. “I don’t like curtailing it. I don’t know if the amending order is the right way to handle this. I prefer to see a more consensus bill come forward if there is one.” Hagedorn’s motion then died on a 4-4 tie, with Sens. Hagedorn, Hill, Winder and Lodge supporting it; and Sens. Lakey, Stennett, Buckner-Webb and Siddoway opposing it.
Articles about voting issues in Idaho.
Legislation to change Idaho’s procedure for special elections when an Idaho member of Congress leaves office mid-term cleared a Senate panel on Monday, and headed to the full Senate. No such election has ever been held in Idaho history, but Idaho’s process for a special election for Congress drew attention in December when 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador was interviewed by then-president-elect Trump for a possible position as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The law says the governor would declare an election date by proclamation, and anyone who wanted to would run, regardless of party. That opened the hypothetical possibility of a whole array of candidates from various parties running together for an open House seat from Idaho.
Idaho students will continue going to school on election day. Legislation to declare a school holiday on every election day in Idaho was killed in the House Education Committee on Monday after it drew strong opposition from school boards and school districts across the state. The measure was designed to allow schools to serve as polling places without creating any danger to kids from all the strangers coming to campus. Chief Deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said the bill envisioned moving teacher professional development days to election days, so teachers still could be on campus, but not students.
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.
An obscure problem with Idaho election laws that caused a lawsuit and an abnormally heated election in Teton County may soon be solved by the Legislature. Having already been approved by the House, House Bill 13 was taken up Friday by the Senate State Affairs Committee. The committee unanimously recommended that the bill pass. The issue the bill addresses arose in the race between Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford and challenger Lindsey Moss. Liford was an incumbent Democrat. Moss, an investigator for the prosecutor’s office, had previously challenged Liford as a Republican, coming within a few dozen votes of ousting him. In 2016, Moss again challenged Liford, this time switching to the Democratic party in an effort to decide the race in the primary. But Liford wanted to fight it out in the general election, so he switched his affiliation to Republican the same day he filed his declaration of candidacy, which he filed on the last possible day.
Canyon County election officials say they have identified the culprit behind Election Day’s slow vote counting process: hundreds of ballots with tiny flaws. Canyon County was among the state’s slowest for counting ballots after polls closed on Nov. 8. In fact, the county finally posted unofficial results at 6:49 a.m. Nov. 9, beating out Bonner County, the last of Idaho’s 44 counties to finish counting, by about four hours. Initially, Canyon County officials believed the delays were caused by voters marking ballots illegibly, causing the machines to spit out ballots and election staff to review and tally each by hand. County spokesman Joe Decker also attributed the slow pace to troubleshooting and the time it took to call in a technician. … County officials then reached out to the printing company, Caxton Printing Ltd., and encouraged company officials to look at whether “timing tracks” — a sequence of squares and other shapes printed on the edges of both sides of the ballot — were properly aligned. Scott Gipson, president of Caxton Printing, reviewed some of the ballots and concluded that between 800 and 1,000 ballots printed for Canyon County had misaligned timing tracks.
Idaho’s Republican presidential primary election cost taxpayers $1.9 million this year, coming in just slightly under what state officials originally estimated. Idaho lawmakers agreed to move the presidential primary from May to March in 2015. The conservative-dominated Statehouse argued that doing so would allow the Gem State to play a bigger role in deciding the presidential nominee. The state’s Republican and Constitutional parties participated in the bumped up election — though Constitutional party votes made up just 500 of the 222,000 votes cast. While Idaho’s Democratic Party had the option to also participate in the primary, minority party lawmakers objected to the move. They argued that taxpayers should not pay for a separate partisan election, particularly because the Idaho GOP primary is only open to registered Republicans.
For many, exercising their right to vote is more complicated than just filling in a box. Across the state there are voting machines for people with a variety of disabilities. But KTVB spoke with one voter who’s blind and says those expensive terminals weren’t any help. Boise resident Bill Morgan votes in every election he can. However, he says oftentimes it can be a struggle getting to the polls. In addition, if the machines to help people with disabilities are hard to navigate, some people may find voting discouraging. “I think it’s the most important thing I can do as a citizen,” Morgan said. “People died so that I could vote.” Being blind, he’s been using accessible voting machines in general elections for the past several years. “I will vote any way I can,” Morgan told KTVB. “But if I can make my own ‘X’ that just makes me feel proud. I like that.”
Ada County elections officials have stopped short of calling it the first “glitch” in the county’s new $1.6 million voting tabulation system, but it’s definitely on the books as a programming error. Routine testing leading up to the Tuesday’s primary election identified that the first mailing of absentee ballots did not have the correct identifying marks needed to be read by the tabulation software. This first mailing took place on March 30th and included 2,660 mailed ballots. All subsequent ballots mailed have the correct markings and they will tabulate accurately, said Chief Deputy Phil McGrane with the Ada County Clerk’s Office.
Legislation to start online voter registration in Idaho has passed the Senate on a unanimous vote, 34-0. It wouldn’t start until after next fall’s general election. The bill estimates a state cost of about $258,000 in one-time development costs, but Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said over time the move should save the state money. A study in Arizona found that online registration cost the state 3 cents per voter, McKenzie said, while registering on paper costs about 83 cents per voter. “So over time it does result in cost savings,” he said. “But for the most part, it really just makes it easier for citizens to register to vote. That’s what states have seen that have implemented, so it’s a good-government bill.” In an earlier committee hearing, Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane told the State Affairs Committee, “As far as clerks go, this is long overdue, in terms of the time and the workload that we handle. … It’s good policy in that it makes voting more accessible to our voting public.”