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Senate Bill 1273 — Voter guides

Senate Bill 1273 — Voter guides

Parrish Miller
February 5, 2024

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1273 would require the Idaho Secretary of State to prepare and distribute comprehensive voter guides for both general and primary elections, and include in them information on candidates for state or federal office. 

Rating: -4

Senate Bill 1273 is similar to Senate Bill 1078, introduced during the 2023 session. 

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

Senate Bill 1273 would create Chapter 8, Title 34, Idaho Code, to say, "The secretary of state shall prepare and distribute a voters' guide before each primary and general election … to provide electors with uniform information about issues, measures, and candidates to be voted on in primary and general elections."

This is a significant expansion of the scope of the Secretary of State's role in elections. 


Does it transfer a function of the private sector to the government? Examples include government ownership or control of any providers of goods or services such as the Land Board’s purchase of a self-storage facility, mandatory emissions testing, or pre-kindergarten. Conversely, does it eliminate a function of government or return a function of government to the private sector?

There is already a plethora of voter guides created and disseminated by various people, groups, political parties, PACs, and nonprofits. Civil society has more than sufficiently met the need for voter guides.


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?

The dissemination of an "official" voter guide by the state gives an air of formality that no particular voter guide — competing among many others — should enjoy. 

It is particularly troubling that this voter guide will contain photographs, statements, and campaign contact information from candidates, but only from those who submit information within 7 days after the candidate filing deadline. Many candidates — especially first-time candidates — do not have any campaign materials prepared before filing and will be put at a disadvantage by this early deadline.

The inclusion or exclusion of a candidate's photograph, statement, and campaign contact information in the official state voter guide could give the appearance of official endorsement or rejection, and it could influence the outcomes of elections. 

It is also concerning that the state would be disseminating voting guides for primary elections, which are internal nominating processes for political parties and not open elections for all voters.


Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?

The Fiscal Note for Senate Bill 1273 estimates the cost of producing and disseminating this official state voter guide at $350,000 per year. This cost will be borne by the taxpayers of Idaho, many of whom probably receive more than enough voter guides as it is.


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