Bill Description: House Bill 88 prohibits the practice of ballot harvesting.
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?
House Bill 88 creates Section 18-2324, Idaho Code, to prohibit ballot harvesting, a practice whereby an individual or group collects completed mail-in or absentee ballots and may (or may not) 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.
To the extent that this bill would protect Idaho voters and Idaho elections from outside interference and fraud, it is a positive idea. Unfortunately, it has some significant shortcomings.
While the intent of House Bill 88 is laudable, the terms and parameters are excessive and serve to limit reasonable behavior and personal choice. The bill not only makes any violation of the statute a felony, but it limits the conveyance of a voter's voted or unvoted ballot to the voter or a "family member authorized by the voter." It further limits that family member to collecting or conveying no more than two ballots, disfavoring large families.
Many people live in subdivisions or apartment complexes where mailboxes are not on the individual homeowner's property but are instead in a common or community area. If a family member were to pick up the mail from this area and there were more than two ballots in the box for multiple adult family members at the address, it would be a felony for that person to take that mail to the house. It would also be a felony for an unmarried partner or roommate to retrieve the mail containing the unvoted ballot or drop off the household's outgoing mail if it included a voted ballot.
There are many other examples of potential problems with this rigid legislation. A voter’s friend or caretaker might be needed to assist in mailing in a completed ballot for an ill or frail voter. Someone living in a long-term care facility may need to entrust his or her mail to a staff member of the facility. A family who is out of town may ask one of the neighbors to collect and hold its mail while it is away.
In each of the above examples, the assistance being rendered would constitute a felony if there were a ballot in the mail.
Ballot harvesting is a real problem, but this legislation is overzealous in its remedy and will serve to turn normal people into felons for engaging in routine and helpful behavior.