Bill Description: House Bill 223 attempts to tackle the problem of ballot harvesting by making it a felony for most people to convey someone else's ballot.
Analyst Note: House Bill 223 replaces House Bill 88. While House Bill 223 makes some improvements over its predecessor, many of the problems identified in the original remain.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 223 creates Section 18-2324, Idaho Code, to prohibit ballot harvesting, a practice whereby an individual or group collects completed mail-in or absentee ballots with the (implicit or explicit) promise to deliver them to be counted.
This new section prohibits the knowing collection or conveyance of a voter's voted or unvoted ballot, except by an election official, a postal worker, an employee or contractor of a major parcel delivery business, or a family member authorized by the voter.
While Idaho has not yet experienced a problem with ballot harvesting, there is the possibility that an unscrupulous organization could attempt to collect ballots from individuals believed to oppose the organization's goals, with the intent to destroy or otherwise prevent the ballots from being counted.
There is no need for political organizations or community organizers to collect and convey large quantities of absentee ballots, and preventing this practice may help to protect future Idaho elections from interference and fraud.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
Unfortunately, House Bill 223 does not limit its definition of criminal activity to collecting or conveying large quantities of absentee ballots. Instead, it opts to make it a felony for someone to convey even a single absentee ballot, unless the conveyor falls into one of several specific categories.
Even a family member authorized by the voter will be guilty of a felony if that person conveys more than six ballots. (The limit in House Bill 88 was just two.)
It must be noted here that to “convey a ballot” simply means to carry or move it from one place to another. Because the new language applies to both a "voted or unvoted ballot," even bringing in an absentee ballot from the mailbox would constitute conveying an unvoted ballot.
While it is possible that someone may convey someone else’s ballot with the intent of committing a crime, there are times when an individual may need help in conveying a voted ballot. Consider someone who is bedridden, either in a private residence or in a long-term care facility — such a person requires assistance both in retrieving an unvoted ballot from the mail and in mailing in a filled-out ballot. House Bill 223 provides no exception for a caregiver, however, so a bedridden individual without family will either be denied the right to vote or require a courageous caregiver willing to risk felony charges for providing requested assistance.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.