After a Break, Legislature Continues Its Attack on Voting Rights

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After a two-week long recess, Idaho legislators are coming back to the Statehouse to finish up the session. Unfortunately, many bad bills are still floating around. Our Voting Rights Coordinator takes a closer look into HB344, a voting restriction bill that will severely impact Idahoans’ right to vote.

By Antonio Hernandez, Voting Rights Coordinator

After a two week-long recess, the Idaho Legislature is reconvening tomorrow at noon. Unfortunately, many legislators are coming back from the break to still go after your right to vote. You might remember that before the break, we were fighting a particularly dangerous anti-voting rights bill, HB 255. Unfortunately, this bill is still around – just in a slightly new form.

Our voter outreach team called over 3,000 households and sent over 2,000 texts on this issue. With the astounding number of Idahoans who contacted their legislators in opposition to this bill, we were encouraged to see the bill sponsor take the bill back to the drawing board. The bill now has a new bill number – HB344 – and many changes have been made to the language – unfortunately, the changes are anything but good. 

Let’s remember that HB 255 was intended to make it harder to vote by significantly changing voter-ID requirements and creating lower standards for expelling voters from the electorate. So, how does HB 255 accomplish this and how is HB 344 even worse? Let’s break it down.

This bill is dangerous for many reasons, one of which is that it seeks to create obstacles for students to vote. The bill would make it so that student identification cards both high school and higher education would no longer be allowed to be used for election day registration and as a form of identification to vote. As an organization who believes that our democracy can’t survive without encouraging our future generations to vote, the removal of student ID cards is extremely alarming. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with local high schools to register new voters since the start of the voting rights program. As Voting Rights Coordinator, I can say with certainty that students are not being encouraged enough to uphold our civic duty, and this bill makes it clear that they are not welcome to be future leaders in our democracy. 

HB 255 – along with its latest reiteration, would purge thousands of Idahoans off the voting rolls. Here’s how it would work. Say you change your address within Idaho and update your address on your voter registration. After you submit the update to your county clerk, if your new address does not “match exactly” with the Idaho Transportation Department you will be sent non-forwardable mail. If that mail is deemed undeliverable, you are taken off the roles. To be clear you do not have to have a mailing address to have the right to vote but this bill does exactly that. If you’re thinking to yourself that with all the new growth and construction going on in Idaho this could be bad for Idahoans across the spectrum, you would be right. However it’s important to remember that Tribal communities have been disenfranchised through address verification before and working families across Idaho face an uncertain future with housing.

Both bills also want to add a stipulation that if you decide to sign an affidavit because you don’t have an Idaho issued valid ID, you have to get your picture taken on the spot and that photo would get attached to your signed affidavit. This has the potential to gum up the process of voting in-person, increasing wait times, and increasing the potential for equipment malfunction. If you’ve ever voted in person, you know there is usually a single file line at the polls.

The new bill number, HB 344, still has all of the voter restriction changes listed above, but will also add NEW ID requirements for anyone who wants to vote using a Tribal ID, requiring a physical address. As mentioned earlier, many rural tribal residents have historically not had physical addresses and most – especially those who live on reservations – have their mail sent to P.O. boxes. This new bill also restricts which documents can be used in address verification for same day registration: cell phone bills are excluded and the six types of eligible documents allowed will have to be dated within 30 days of the election date. 

As you can see, HB 344 adds confusion to the secure voting process that Idahoans have enjoyed for years. It adds a checklist of chores for any voters who change residence (especially those who move frequently), and may keep them in the dark with whether or not they were taken off the voter rolls. The bill, in almost joker-like fashion, lets college students vote with their IDs as long as it displays date of birth. Yet, virtually no college ID in Idaho has that information on it.

Working Idaho families may show up to the polls believing they have everything they need to vote but may be turned away after standing in line during a short voting window. When a voter is turned away from the polls for any reason, odds are they wont be able to come back to vote. It’s vital that we protect and defend the right to vote for all Idahoans. Join us in fighting back against voter suppression. 

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