Bill Description: Senate Bill 1256 would permanently bar from elected office any official who is "convicted of a crime resulting in probation or incarceration in a correctional facility, local correctional facility, or private correctional facility."
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?
Senate Bill 1256 would create Chapter 4, Title 74, Idaho Code, to say, "Any elected official of a governmental entity or any person appointed to a vacant elected office of a governmental entity convicted of a crime resulting in probation or incarceration in a correctional facility, local correctional facility, or private correctional facility, as those terms are defined in section 18-101A, Idaho Code, shall no longer be eligible to be elected to any public office within the state of Idaho."
It would also say, "Any elected public official found to be in violation of this section may complete his term of office."
There are several problems with this proposal, starting with a lack of clarity. Must the person be serving in elected office when convicted in order to trigger the provisions of this act? Would a criminal offense committed before being elected carry the prohibition? Is the timing tied to when the offense was committed, when the conviction occurred, or when the sentence was handed down?
An additional problem is found in the phrase "convicted of a crime resulting in probation or incarceration …" because even low-level misdemeanors can result in probation or short-term incarceration.
This bill could potentially impose a lifetime ban on running for elected office even for a single conviction for a victimless, low-level misdemeanor.
Does it violate the principle of equal protection under the law? Examples include laws which discriminate or differentiate based on age, gender, or religion or which apply laws, regulations, rules, or penalties differently based on such characteristics. Conversely, does it restore or protect the principle of equal protection under the law?
This law could be applied unequally because the lifetime ban on running for elected office would be conditioned on the penalty imposed rather than on the crime committed. If two officials were convicted of the same crime but received different penalties (for example, if one received probation or was sentenced to "time served" and the other only received a fine), one would face the lifetime ban while the other would not.
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?
Beyond the unjustified harms and excessive penalties this bill could impose on officials, it also broadly violates the rights of voters to elect those they choose in spite of their faults or failings.
Our country is currently in the midst of a national debate over whether criminal charges or convictions should disqualify someone from running for president, and these questions involve far more serious charges and a more powerful office than those addressed by this bill.
Voting is fundamentally about weighing all the factors and deciding who deserves to hold office, and broad prohibitions that limit who can seek an office and make their case to the voters compromise this process and limit voters' choices.
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