Idaho Voter Restriction Bills Explained

Idaho State Capitol building during the day
Close up of hands casting a ballot

Idaho voter restriction bills explained: What you need to know, how they’ll affect your right to vote, and what you can do to stop them

A series of alarming bills is moving through the legislature right now that want to restrict your right to vote and add countless bureaucratic hurdles to the voting process.

There have already been six bills introduced in this year’s legislative session that are aimed at restricting our right to vote. They all have emergency clauses, which means they’ll go into effect right before this spring’s primary election, where all 105 Idaho legislators and our Governor will be up for reelection. These bills would not only prevent voters from making their voice heard, but would change the rules entirely, pulling the rug out from under Idaho voters.

What would these bills do to Idaho’s voting process? Here’s our breakdown of the voter restriction bills currently in play and how they could affect how you vote.

HB549 – Makes significant changes to Idaho’s voting processes

House Bill 549, introduced by Representative Dorothy Moon, would do away with widely-popular voting mechanisms used by thousands of Idaho voters, such as same day voter registration.

This bill restricts Idahoans’ right to vote by placing enormous bureaucratic hurdles on the voting process and stripping away convenient and accessible ways thousands of Idahoans rely on to cast their vote.

This bill would:

  • Remove same day voter registration
    • Voters would need to register electronically by 30 days prior to the election, or by the Friday before the election if they register in-person at the county clerk’s office.
    • Same day registration is popular among Idahoans. In 2020, over 80,000 voters statewide registered on Election Day, or nearly 9% of all ballots cast. 
  • Remove the ability for a voter to sign a voter affidavit to verify their identity on Election Day
    • Under the bill, if a voter cannot produce an ID, they would be given a provisional ballot, which would be kept separate. The voter would have until 10 days following the election to present proper ID to the county clerk and have their ballot counted. Provisional ballots that are not validated would be marked spoiled and not counted. This places a severe burden on the voter.
    • Many Idahoans have to take off from work on Election Day to vote. This provision would make it so that the voter would need to take off more work, a policy that no doubt would cut out hardworking Idahoans from the voting process if they happen to forget their ID at the polls.
  • Removes student IDs as an acceptable form of voter identification.

HB439 – Changes Unaffiliated Voter Registration Deadline

House Bill 439 would shut out hundreds of thousands of Idaho voters from our democratic process by drastically moving up the deadline for unaffiliated voters to change their party registration at the same time Republicans and Democrats do – March 11. Currently, unaffiliated voters have up until Election Day.

Over 310,000 Idahoans are registered as unaffiliated voters, making up 30% of total voters. This bill would shut many Idahoans out of the voting process. Many unaffiliated voters vote based on their values – not by their party affiliation. And, these voters wait until Election Day to decide what candidate they believe will best represent their values. By changing the registration deadline for these voters, we are essentially forcing them to align with a given party.

By passing this bill, the deadline to register would move up the registration deadline to March 11 immediately, giving unaffiliated voters one week to register to vote in this year’s primary election – arguably one of the most important statewide elections Idahoans will be able to participate in to date.

HB547 – Criminalizes Delivering Your Friend’s Ballot

House Bill 547, introduced by Representative Mike Moyle, will make it illegal to knowingly collect and return someone else’s absentee ballot unless you are a family member. This bill would make it so that if you wanted to help your fellow Idahoan deliver their ballot for whatever reason, you would be charged with a misdemeanor.

This bill is a heavy-handed solution in search of a problem, while cutting out everyday Idahoans who rely on their fellow neighbor or friend to help them deliver their ballot if they are incapable of doing so or just can’t find the time out of their day.

This bill especially hurts rural voters, voters with disabilities, and working single parents. Many of these Idahoans do not have family nearby to rely on to deliver their ballot for them. We should be making voting easier for Idahoans, especially those who need the extra help, not taking away methods relied on by Idahoans to cast their vote.

HB567 – Shortens window for candidate filing

House Bill 567 changes the time frame in which a candidate is allowed to file a declaration of candidacy to one week. This would give an unfair advantage to legislative incumbents since they’d be aware of the immediate changes that would take place upon passage of this bill.

Since this bill has an emergency clause, the change would go into immediate effect and apply to this year’s primary election. The filing period to declare a candidacy would be on March 4, instead of March 11 this year, which would only give candidates five days to file for office instead of the current 12. We don’t think it’s fair to change the rules on voters – or candidates – when we’re already in the game.

We need to keep a level playing field for all candidates, not change the rules to make sure politicians remain in office.

The following bills have been introduced, but so far have not been making much headway (thankfully). If that changes, we’ll be sure to update you!

HB485 -Prohibit Ballot Drop Boxes

House Bill 485 prohibits the use of drop boxes for collection of absentee ballots. This bill would take away a safe, secure, and convenient way for voters to cast their ballot, particularly impacting rural voters and working folks.

If this bill went into effect, a voter who wanted to drop off their ballot in person would need to do so at their county clerk’s office during business hours (Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm). This is simply not possible for many rural voters where their county clerk office is hours away. For example, in Idaho County, a voter from Riggins would need to travel to Grangeville, a two hour drive one way. Many voters work during business hours and do not have the time or luxury to make such a trip. 

Idahoans enjoy many options to cast their vote, and it’s up to each voter to decide which option works best for them and what they feel most comfortable with. Ballot drop boxes are a convenient and secure way for voters who don’t want to mail in their ballot or vote in person to make their voice heard.

Ballot drop boxes are locked and regularly emptied by election official staff and are designed to be waterproof and tamper-proof. Drop boxes help voters cast their ballots before Election Day, ensuring voters who have to work on Election Day or who don’t have time on Election Day to stand in line can also make their voice heard.They are conveniently located, usually next to a library or other community building. Voters can easily drop off their ballot to a secure drop box while running errands.

HB0441 – Changes authorized sources of voter assistance in nursing homes

House Bill 0441 is made in good faith and is a good idea in theory. However, a closer look shows this bill lacks practicality in its aims for bipartisanship and effective voter assistance.

This bill would designate three sources of bipartisan voter assistance to be made available for individuals in care facilities such as retirement homes. Authorized sources of assistance would be immediate family members, volunteers from the local County Clerk’s office, and representatives from both the Republican and Democrat parties. All of this sounds good, until you look at the logistics.

Firstly, the sheer demand for volunteers to assist in our state’s many care facilities simply could not be met, especially not equally between political parties. Secondly, the definition “immediate family” leaves out trusted people within these individuals’ circle that have no legal ties to them, such as a family pastor, close friend, or trusted neighbor – especially for individuals who do not have family close by. Thirdly, it puts the weight on the county clerks’ offices to find, train, and dispatch volunteers to each care facility within their area, and depends heavily on people volunteering their time to implement this assistance, which is likely to be inconsistent. Simply put, this bill disguises restrictions as resources, by limiting the options individuals in care facilities would have for assistance in voting for their values and their interests.