by Andrew Crisp
Idaho Democratic lawmakers unveiled five bills this morning, each aimed at changing how Idaho votes, including a proposal to get the state's Republican Party to foot the bill for future closed primaries.
Additionally, the Dems plan to introduce a bill that would require the Idaho Republican Party to "reimburse counties for any incremental election costs."
"House Bill 59, the Private Election Taxpayer Compensation Act, takes the burden of paying for a closed primary off of our citizens and rightfully places the burden onto the political party that has voluntarily closed its primary election," said Werk.
This morning, Boise Sen. Elliot Werk stood with other Democratic members to announce the Voting Opportunity and Trustworthy Elections, or VOTE, initiative, which includes House Bill 59. Werk said the bills would modernize Idaho's elections, and were created in response to concerns raised by voters during the November election.
Werk said long lines, inaccessible polling places and difficulty reaching polling locations before they closed were commonplace problems during the last election. The Democrats' package of bills, he said, would "move Idaho’s elections process into the 21st century by taking advantage of technologies to improve access to the ballot while protecting the integrity of our elections."
The Online Voter Registration Act allows citizens to register to vote online and verify their signatures at county Department of Motor Vehicle Offices.
The Motor Voter Act provides voter registration materials to anyone over the age of 18 seeking a driver's license, which can be filled out at the DMV and forwarded to the county.
The Private Election Taxpayer Compensation Act requires the Idaho Republican Party to reimburse counties for incremental costs incurred because of the party's new closed primary.
The Early Voting Opportunity Act requires counties with fewer than 25,000 residents operate at least one early voting center, counties with 25,000 to 100,000 residents to operate at least two geographically distributed early voting centers, and counties with more than 100,000 residents to operate at least three geographically distributed early voting centers. Each center would operate at least five days a week, 8 a.m to 5 p.m., for 21 days prior to the election.
The Voter Convenience Act would require counties to set up at least one full-service polling place in a population center that allows election-day voting and voter registration for all voters residing in a county.
Werk said his colleagues spoke with county officials across Idaho and the Secretary of State's Office, and that the proposals were "workable." However, no state funding mechanism was proposed to provide counties with a way to pay for the provisions.