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Photo ID requirement a step closer to law

Photo ID requirement a step closer to law

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 17, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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March 17, 2010

A plan to require Idaho voters to show a photo ID when they show up to vote is a Senate vote and a governor’s signature away from becoming law. Voters would need to bring ID with them in the November general election. The Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday approved legislation that was put together by the Idaho secretary of state and legislative leaders.

Voters who don’t bring identification to the polls could sign an affidavit swearing their identity before getting their ballot. Anyone using false ID to vote would face felony charges.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, told senators this is the first step to prevent voter fraud. He said eventually he’d like tighter ID requirements for registering to vote or voting by mail. “This is the start down the road to get that all put together,” he said. He got the proposal through the House on a 64-6 vote March 1. Moyle said he’s heard no pushback to the plan. “People are concerned that those who vote are who they say they are, and they’re concerned about fraud in elections.” He twice mentioned ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has been accused of voter fraud, during his remarks Wednesday.

Tim Hurst, the chief deputy secretary of state, said ACORN closed its only office in Idaho in 2008 and did not engage in voter registration during the last election. He said there have been a few cases of voter fraud in Lewiston and Twin Falls that have been prosecuted, but that the new ID requirement would prevent future fraud. “It does deter fraud,” Hurst said. “I don’t see that fraud is running rampant in Idaho right now.” Hurst said the proposed law is based on a South Dakota law that he said is working well.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, cast the lone no vote in the committee. She said she’s convinced there hasn’t been voter fraud in her district, based on her discussions with the secretary of state and her county clerk. “We have checks and balances in place that protect voter fraud,” she said. “To me this seems like window dressing, but even more than that, it’s going to inhibit people from voting when in fact there is no problem.” She said the new requirements could lead to longer lines at polling places and more training for poll workers. “What this is going to do is place a burden on people who go to the polls, and it’s an unnecessary burden.”

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, also asked how useful the ID requirement would be with voters’ option to sign an affidavit if they don’t have ID. He told Moyle he could sign an affidavit saying he was Donald Duck to get a ballot. Only registered voters would have the option of signing that affidavit. It would take a government-issued ID or a utility bill to register to vote. “We’re always putting more burdens on the honest people and we don’t make the screen tight enough to catch the scoundrels,” Pearce said.

“We want to do what we can to get ahead of voter fraud,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. “If we can reduce in a significant way the likelihood of abuse, that’s to be applauded.”

If the photo ID requirement becomes law, it would go into effect for the November election. Hurst said the secretary of state would mention the requirement in a voter information campaign. Read IdahoReporter.com's first story on the legislation here. The text of the legislation, HB496, is available here.

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