Legislation aimed at eliminating no-excuse absentee voting fails on the House floor

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 3:55 AM MDT
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BOISE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —Legislation aimed at addressing concerns related to no-excuse absentee voting in Idaho is going back to the drawing board, after failing in the House Monday.

House Bill 205 sought to put restrictions on who can request an absentee vote. Idahoans would have needed to meet certain conditions to be able to request an absentee ballot, such as: serving in the military, illness, disability or hospitalization, serving a religious mission, staying in a second home they own, or having to work or attend university classes.

Bill sponsor Rep. Joe Alfieri told House members absentee voting is susceptible to voter fraud, and its important to be vigilant and maintain the integrity of Idaho’s elections

The Idaho’s Secretary of State’s Office reported in the 2022 General Election that nearly 130,000 absentee ballots were cast, which represented roughly 21 percent of total votes cast.

Alfieri said as Idaho’s population grows, and more people move to Idaho from states where absentee voting is more prevalent, the broadening use of absentee ballots opens up the Gem State to potential voter fraud. His legislation refers to a report from the Commission on Federal Election Reform which declared, “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

“The Heritage Foundation survey of election processes across the country, Idaho ranked 37th. Idaho should rank #1. Not #37. We are ranked 37th because of our problem with absentee ballots,” Alfieri said.

Those who voted in opposition of the bill felt it was a solution in search of a problem. The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office reported in a previous committee meeting that there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, as a result of absentee ballots.

Additionally, some lawmakers felt the legislation would put an unneeded burden on Idaho voters, specifically those who live in rural areas or are elderly

Rep. Rep. Britt Raybould said currently, anyone who supplies false information on a request for an absentee ballot is subject to a $50,000 fine or imprisonment, according to state and federal law.

“Are we really comfortable with potentially making the fellow citizens of our state accidental criminals because we put forward a bill that adds unneeded complexity to a system that is currently not at risk of fraud. Has not experienced fraud, and has worked just fine for the citizens of this state as is,” Raybould.

Many lawmakers echoed what Raybould said, including District 26 Rep. Jack Nelsen. In the 2022 election the number of votes counted in Jerome County were incorrectly reported on the Idaho Secretary of State’s office website, which made it appear that Democratic candidate Metzler Fitzgerald won the House seat over Nelsen. After the tabulation was corrected, Nelsen proved to be the winner.

Nelsen told House members his district relies heavily on absentee ballots, and even with the error in his last election, he has full confidence in his district’s county clerks. He said if had lost the last election he would not have cried voter fraud.

Before House members voted, Alfieri closed by saying just because there is no proof of voter fraud in Idaho, it doesn’t means its not happening. Alfieri said absentee voter fraud is hard to prove, because once a ballot is mailed the evidence is gone.

His closing argument didn’t sway the majority of House members, as HB205 failed in the House by a vote of 30 to 40.

Twin Falls lawmakers Lance Clow and Greg Lanting, along with Nelsen, voted against the bill.