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House Bill 547 — Ballots, collection

House Bill 547 — Ballots, collection

by
Parrish Miller
February 9, 2022
Parrish Miller
February 9, 2022

Bill Description: House Bill 547 would make it a crime for someone other than election officials, mail carriers, nationwide parcel delivery businesses, family members, and household members to convey someone else's ballot.

Rating: 0

Analyst Note: House Bill 547 is similar to House Bill 223 from 2021. 

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 547 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 promise (implicit or explicit) 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 national parcel delivery business, a family member authorized by the voter, or a member of the voter's household. 

While Idaho has not yet experienced a problem with ballot harvesting, it is possible that an unscrupulous organization could attempt to collect ballots from individuals it believes are opposed to 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.

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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 547 does not limit its definition of criminal activity to collecting or conveying large quantities of absentee ballots. Instead, it opts to make it a crime for someone to convey even a single absentee ballot, unless the conveyor falls into one of several specific categories.

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 or transporting a sealed and voted absentee ballot to a mailbox would constitute conveying a ballot.

Compared to last year's similar bill, House Bill 547 does add "a member of the voter's household" to the list of exempted individuals. This helps to alleviate concerns about the prohibition ensnaring a roommate or unmarried romantic partner. 

There are still some problems with this bill, however. No exceptions exist for employees such as a housekeeper, secretary, or personal assistant, who might routinely assist in conveying someone's mail. Likewise, there is no exception for caregivers, who may be tasked with conveying mail and even with assisting bedridden individuals in filling out their ballots. 

(-1)

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