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Idaho bill aiming to stop 'ballot harvesting' passes house, with no support from Democrats

House Bill 547 protects election integrity according to Republican bill supporters. Those in opposition call the bill restrictive.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho House Republicans passed House Bill 547 behind a 53-15 vote Monday after more than 20 minutes of debate.

The bill aims to stop ballot harvesting - a practice where an individual or group collects and transports other people’s ballots. Ballot harvesting can lead to election integrity concerns, according to bill sponsor House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle.

"Make it easy for people to vote, but make it hard for them to cheat," Rep. Moyle said. "We're trying to find that balance where we protect the integrity of the ballot, keep it secure, and keep it easy."

The bill outlines exceptions and groups of people who are allowed to collect other people’s ballots. These exceptions include elected officials, postal service workers, private mail service workers, someone related to the voter (blood, marriage, adoption), or a roommate.

People belonging to the list of expectations can collect and deliver up to six ballots. The bill looks to punish anyone collecting more than six ballots with a misdemeanor; collecting ten or more ballots would be publishable by felony.

"I don't think we should be making crimes out of things that aren't bad. In fact, I don't think we should be making good deeds into crimes," House Minority Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel said. "The fact that it could be misused, that's not how we operate. We don't ban all driving because it's possible someone could drive drunk. We ban drunk driving. We ban the bad behavior. We don't ban good behavior simply because it's conceivable somebody somewhere could do it badly."

Rep. Rubel strongly opposed the bill on the house floor, arguing that tampering with ballots is already illegal. Limiting who can collect ballots creates more barriers for people who are elderly or have disabilities to submit their vote, according to Rep.Rubel.

"They're wrong," Rep Moyle said. "This bill opens up the opportunity for a lot of help from your roommate to your family to an elected official. All kinds of options to get help if you need help with your ballot. The question is who do you want helping you? Do you want a family member or someone partisan to show up to vote for you or help you vote? That's the issue."

Rep. Moyle conceded ballot harvesting isn't a major concern currently in Idaho; however, this bill is a preventative measure to stop it from taking off in the first place.

All 12 House Democrats voted against the bill. Three Republican lawmakers voted against the bill with two abstaining votes.

After passing the house, House Bill 547 now moves to a Senate committee.

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