House Bill 349 — Ballots, post-election audits

House Bill 349 — Ballots, post-election audits

by
Parrish Miller
April 7, 2021
Parrish Miller
April 7, 2021

Bill Description: House Bill 349 would authorize the secretary of state to order a post-election audit of election results.

Rating: +2

Analyst Note: House Bill 349 is similar to House Bill 137, but it adds new provisions strictly limiting the scale of the proposed audits. Unlike House Bill 137, this bill limits audits to certain elections only, excluding local elections, including bond and levy elections. Furthermore, the audits are limited to no more than one legislative race in each county and no more than 5% of the precincts in one county, or just one precinct if it makes up 5% or more of the total number of precincts in the county. There are 27 legislative races held in Ada County every two years, and that number is expected to increase to 30 following redistricting. Limiting an audit to just one of those 27-30 legislative races may well prove insufficient to unearth fraud or other improprieties.

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 349 creates Section 34-1203A, Idaho Code, which authorizes the Idaho Secretary of State office to "identify and order a postelection audit of certain paper ballots cast in any election" within two days "after the completion of all county canvasses for any primary or general election."

Auditing paper ballots is a positive step toward increasing the security and accuracy of elections. House Bill 349 does not require such audits, however; it merely allows them to take place. The value of such audits could be increased by adding a requirement that some precincts be randomly selected for an audit after every election. 

(+1)

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?

House Bill 137 requires that the secretary of state "immediately post to the website of the office of the secretary of state a list of the precincts and elections selected for audit." It further states that "such an audit shall be open to attendance by news media personnel." The process must "include provisions allowing each interested candidate and political party to appoint a designated observer."

These are positive efforts toward transparency, but they could be enhanced by requiring the audit process to be livestreamed so the public could observe as well. 

(+1)

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