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House Bill 667 — Absentee ballots

House Bill 667 — Absentee ballots

Parrish Miller
March 1, 2024

Bill Description: House Bill 667 would limit the use of absentee ballots, at least in theory.

Rating: +1

NOTE: House Bill 667 is similar to House Bill 573, introduced earlier this session, but House Bill 667 is weaker. 

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 667 would amend Section 34-1002, Idaho Code, to say that a "registered elector may request an absentee ballot if the elector is unable to vote in person on the day of the election and on all early voting days because the elector anticipates being out of the jurisdiction on such days; or has an illness or another disability that would prevent the elector from voting in person on such days."

House Bill 573 contained a requirement that absentee ballot applications include "the reason justifying the request for an absentee ballot." House Bill 667, by contrast, does not require an applicant to justify the application. 

The bill says that an absentee ballot application may only be sent when requested by an elector, and only by "the county clerk or other officer charged by law with the duty of issuing official ballots for the election." The clerk may also "provide the application online," however, which largely negates any limitation this provision might provide. 

The bill would require that an absentee ballot application be completed by the elector "unless the elector, due to illness or another disability, needs assistance in completing the application. Such assistance may be provided only by a person who has a familial or caregiving relationship with the elector."

The final change made by the bill is that "an application for an absentee ballot that fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be considered invalid, and no absentee ballot shall be issued in response to an invalid application."

Prior to the recent hyper-politicalization of the issue, both sides of the political aisle have long agreed that voting by mail-in ballot increases the likelihood of fraud, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton explained in a 2020 op-ed.

In theory, the changes contained in House Bill 667 should improve the state's election integrity. This proposed law would say that a voter is only supposed to request an absentee ballot under specific circumstances. It would limit how an absentee ballot application may be sent and require that the application be completed by the voter. 

The problem is that, in practical terms, any voter (or someone acting on the voter's behalf) could fill out an online absentee ballot application form without providing any justification. 

This bill should put an end to the practice of political campaigns physically mailing supporters absentee ballot applications. But it won't stop campaigns from using mailers with QR codes or online ads to encourage supporters to request an absentee ballot online.

Limiting the use of absentee ballots is necessary for secure elections, and this bill would take a small step toward that goal. More work is needed, though, to effectively limit the proliferation of absentee voting.


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