The Idaho House of Representatives narrowly killed a bill Tuesday that would have eliminated registered voters’ ability to sign sworn affidavit to verify their identity and vote in elections.
House Bill 137 would have repealed a section of Idaho law that allows registered voters to provide their name and address and complete a signed, sworn affidavit attesting to their identity instead of presenting photo identification.
Rep. Joe Alfieri, R-Coeur d’Alene, pushed House Bill 137, saying it would provide enhanced elections security and prevent voter fraud. Alfieri didn’t provide specific examples of anyone in Idaho forging affidavits to vote, but he said there is a potential for fraud and affidavits make it easier to cheat.
“The problem with allowing that to happen is that we have the possibility of voter fraud,” Alfieri told legislators. “And I know there’s been a lot of discussion about whether voter fraud exists in this state or not — I contend that it does.”
Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane and former Secretary of State Lawerence Denney have said repeatedly that Idaho elections are secure and widespread voter fraud is not occurring in Idaho. They have pointed to Idaho’s existing elections laws, consistent results from elections audits, recounts and the public testing and demonstration of ballot tabulation equipment as evidence of the security and integrity of Idaho elections.
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Rep. Britt Raybould, R-Rexburg, told legislators Tuesday it is already a felony to provide false, erroneous or inaccurate information on voter affidavits in Idaho. She said the bill repealing voter affidavits is unnecessary and would prevent eligible registered voters from exercising their constitutional rights.
Idaho legislators recently passed a different law removing the use of student IDs as an acceptable form of voting. That law is being challenged, but if it holds up, the only acceptable forms of ID for voting are an Idaho driver’s license or photo ID card issued by the Idaho Transportation Department, a U.S. passport or photo ID issued by the U.S. government, a tribal photo ID card or a license to carry concealed weapons or an enhanced license to carry.
Raybould told legislators that many Idaho seniors allow their driver’s license to expire once they stop driving. Many seniors also don’t travel internationally and may not have one of the other forms of ID, either.
”Are we saying that those individuals, because they are no longer driving, should no longer have the ability to vote?” Raybould asked legislators.
“An affidavit provides a way for those in our community who are no longer participating in the same capacity that they did previously to participate in the election, and they do so in signing an affidavit that comes with a potential for felony conviction if they provide information that is inaccurate,” Raybould added.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said about 2,000 Idahoans voted using an affidavit in November’s general election.
“Two thousand voters who aren’t going to be able to use this process,” Gannon said in his floor debate.
“We’re essentially not providing a way for people to vote, and there’s going to be people who are disenfranchised in the next election,” Gannon said.
Rep. Stephanie Jo Mickelsen, R-Idaho Falls, said her husband has shown up to vote shortly before the polls closed but forgot his driver’s license after spending the entire day farming. Without the option to sign an affidavit, he would have been unable to cast a vote. Mickelsen also stressed that many eligible voters may not have one of the specific forms of photo identification that the state accepts for voting.
“To take away the very right to vote for these people is wrong,” Mickelsen said.
After a nearly hour-long debate, the Idaho House voted 33-36 to kill House Bill 137, which is now dead for the session.
How will Idaho’s 2023 legislative session end?
Legislators have been conducting lengthy floor sessions for the past couple of weeks in an attempt to wrap up the 2023 legislative session by Republican leaders’ target date on Friday. However, there are obstacles that could block finishing the session by Friday, including the $4.7 billion Medicaid budget that the Idaho House killed Monday. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will need to rewrite the Medicaid budget and have it pass the Idaho House and Idaho Senate.
The Idaho Legislature cannot adjourn the session for the year without setting a balanced fiscal year 2024 budget, which kicks in July 1.
The exact legislative endgame is still unclear. Last year, the Idaho Legislature wrapped up its business late at night on March 26, a Friday night, and then went into recess until the following Thursday to wait for Gov. Brad Little to act on any late-session bills that were sent to his desk. The Idaho Legislature then adjourned for the year “sine die” March 31 without taking any further action.
Going into recess for a few days rather than immediately adjourning when they wrap up their business allows legislators to have the option to attempt to override any late vetoes that Little may issue. If it comes up, it takes a two-thirds vote of each legislative chamber to successfully override a gubernatorial veto.