An Idaho Senate panel had no support Monday for a plan to make write-in candidates for election announce their candidacy 28 days before an election, which would be double the current 14-day deadline.
Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said the earlier deadline would limit the opportunity for a last-minute candidate with strong popular support. “A lot of the impetus for a write-in candidate quite often is just before the election, possibly in an uncontested race.” Stegner said the Senate State Affairs Committee might reconsider the earlier deadline, which the Idaho House approved. He said that the committee is facing a heavy workload as the session ends and wants to proceed cautiously. “If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the side of citizens maintaining their options.” He said the early deadline could be a possible disadvantage to citizens who want to run for office.
The secretary of state and Idaho county clerks supported the earlier deadline for write-in candidates. Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said the 28-day time period would give clerks enough time to make sure ballots are correct. Write-in candidates’ names are now listed on Idaho’s new optical scan ballots. Hurst said clerks used the 14-day deadline during the 2008 elections, but that the chances of mistakes are greater with a shorter time to check ballots.
Hurst told lawmakers that many write-in candidates file at the deadline, but don’t often win elections. “Typically, those who file at the last minute, you don’t see much success from those,” he said. “They’re against something rather than for something, so we don’t have a great concern about that.”
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said that there were more than 100 different ballots in Ada County in 2008, due to different precincts. “County clerks across the state are fanatical about counting every ballot and counting them accurately,” she said. King said the added time would assure that clerks could make sure there aren’t any errors on ballots.