Bill Description: Senate Bill 1376 would criminalize ballot harvesting in a manner that may well have unintended repercussions.
Analyst Note: Senate Bill 1376 is similar to, and is competition for, House Bill 547, which deals with the same issue.
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?
Senate Bill 1376 would amend Section 34-1005, Idaho Code, to limit who may return an absentee ballot to the county elections office. Under this bill, the only people who could return a ballot would be "the elector or by the elector's caregiver, family member, or household member at the request of the elector."
The bill says, "No person may mail or deliver more than five (5) absentee ballots in addition to his own absentee ballot in a single election."
The bill also says, "If the absentee ballot is delivered or mailed by a person other than the elector, the person shall sign an affidavit on the outside of the return envelope providing the person's name and relationship to the elector."
The bill does not apply to election officials, postal workers, or employees or contractors of a national parcel delivery business.
The stated purpose of this bill is to prohibit ballot harvesting, a practice whereby an individual or group collects completed mail-in or absentee ballots with the promise (implicit or explicit) to deliver them to be counted.
While Idaho has not yet experienced a problem with ballot harvesting, it is possible that an unscrupulous organization could try to collect ballots from individuals it believes are opposed to its goals, with the intent to destroy the ballots or otherwise keep them from being counted.
There is no need for political organizations or community organizers to collect and convey large quantities of absentee ballots, and preventing this practice may help to protect future Idaho elections from interference and fraud.
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?
Unfortunately, Senate Bill 1376 does not limit its definition of criminal activity to returning large quantities of absentee ballots for partisan or ideological gain. Instead, the bill makes it a crime to return anyone else's absentee ballot, unless the person doing so is the elector or a "caregiver, family member, or household member" acting "at the request of the elector" and who signs "an affidavit on the outside of the return envelope providing the person's name and relationship to the elector."
If a husband put both his and his wife's ballots in an outgoing mailbox without signing an affidavit on her ballot return envelope, he would violate the law.
One provision of the bill makes it a felony to "return an absentee ballot for an elector for monetary compensation." This conflicts with the exception it makes for caretakers, who may usually, as part of their employment, handle mail for their client.
Likewise, no exceptions exist for employees such as housekeepers, secretaries, or personal assistants, who might routinely assist in conveying their employer's mail.