Bill Description: House Bill 259 would clarify and expand restrictions on distributing absentee ballots.
NOTE: House Bill 259 was heavily amended in the House in a manner that substantially weakened the bill. This amendment changes the rating of the bill from (+1) to (0).
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 259 would amend Section 34-1002, Idaho Code, to say, "No person other than a county clerk, election official, officer, or employee of this state authorized by law may distribute an absentee ballot application form to any other person. Nongovernmental entities shall not distribute absentee ballot applications unless otherwise authorized under state or federal law."
It further stipulates that "the county clerk or an election official, officer, or employee of this state authorized by law may distribute absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots only to voters in a mail ballot precinct designated pursuant to section 34-308, Idaho Code, and to those voters who have requested such applications or absentee ballots. Distributing an absentee ballot application or ballot in violation of this subsection is unlawful unless otherwise authorized under state or federal law."
House Bill 259 would amend Section 34-1003, Idaho Code, to say, "No election official shall distribute absentee ballot applications or absentee ballots to a voter without first receiving a request from the voter for such application or ballot, except in the case of voters in a mail ballot precinct designated pursuant to section 34-308, Idaho Code, or unless otherwise authorized by state or federal law.”
This provision should 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.
Does it violate the principles of federalism by increasing federal authority, yielding to federal blandishments, or incorporating changeable federal laws into Idaho statutes or rules? Examples include citing federal code without noting as it is written on a certain date, using state resources to enforce federal law, and refusing to support and uphold the Tenth Amendment. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the principles of federalism?
House Bill 259 uses the phrase, "unless otherwise authorized by state or federal law" in its new language.
No Idaho statute should ever broadly subordinate Idaho law to unspecified or unenumerated federal laws or rules. Additionally, even specific federal laws or rules should only be incorporated into statute if they are explicitly limited to their form and scope as of a specific date.