Bill Description: House Bill 205 would set specific requirements for when a voter may choose to vote using an absentee ballot and prevent elections officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
NOTE: House Bill 205 is similar to House Bill 75, introduced earlier this session. House Bill 205 adds an additional allowable reason for requesting an absentee ballot and clarifies that the prohibition against sending an absentee ballot application directly to an elector applies to both physical and electronic applications.
Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency, accountability, or election integrity? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency, accountability, or election integrity?
House Bill 205 would amend Section 34-1001, Idaho Code, related to absentee ballots, by limiting the reasons for which a voter may request an absentee ballot. Under current law, any voter may request an absentee ballot without providing a reason.
House Bill 205 would provide five explanations a voter could use as a reason for requesting an absentee ballot:
- "The elector's active service with the armed forces of the United States."
- "The elector's illness, disability, or hospitalization."
- "The elector is unable to appear at the polls on the day of the election in order to work or attend university."
- "The elector is out of the county on the day of the election on a religious mission."
- "The elector is occupying a second home or residence outside of the elector's home county on the date the election is held."
The bill also says "No person shall misrepresent the eligibility requirements for voting by absentee ballot set forth in subsection (1) of this section to any elector or prospective absentee ballot applicant. No elector shall misrepresent the elector's qualifying circumstances to any election official."
By reducing the use of absentee ballots, this bill will reduce the opportunities for misuse and fraud, thereby increasing election integrity.
House Bill 205 would amend Section 34-1002, Idaho Code, to say, "No government official or other entity shall physically or electronically send an absentee ballot application directly to any elector except upon the direct request of the elector. Applications may not be prefilled with the elector's required information but must be completed by the elector."
This provision will prevent the troubling practice, used in some states, of mass mailing absentee ballot applications to large numbers of voters. These mass mailings significantly increase the number of absentee ballots disseminated, increasing the risk of malfeasance. To make things worse, sometimes the applications are filled out before they are mailed, making fraud that much easier.
Once again, reducing the use of absentee ballots will reduce opportunities for misuse and fraud, and improve election integrity in Idaho.