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Boise Mayor urges passage of voting rights bills

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean is one of the 150 mayors who signed a letter sent to U.S. Senate leaders asking them to pass two voting rights bills.
Credit: Brian Myrick/ Idaho Press

BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published in the Idaho Press.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders asking them to pass two voting rights bills — and Boise Mayor Lauren McLean is one of the mayors who signed on.

McLean is the only Idaho mayor to sign the letter, and one of over 150 mayors from both parties from around the United States.

“I've always believed in the importance of citizen engagement,” McLean said in a statement. “Voting is a dear and essential element of our city, state, and nation; the most important right and responsibility we have to express our beliefs and shape our community's future.”

The letter focuses on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

Former presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, sponsored the Freedom to Vote Act, which proposes expanding voter registration and voting access and limits removing voters from voter rolls, according to its summary.

The bill would also establish election day as a federal holiday and establish a new criminal offense for interfering with someone else’s vote. Additionally, it requires states to conduct post-election audits after federal elections.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. The bill would “restore and update the full protections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965," according to the Brennan Center.

The act would also require early voting in all states, allow no-excuse mail voting, make election day a holiday and restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated Americans, among other provisions.

In her statement, McLean said everyone suffers when access to voting is eroded.

Last year, Idaho was one of 19 states to pass restrictive voting laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The law in question is H.B. 290, which was signed by Idaho Gov. Brad Little in April 2021.

“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure the security of absentee voting and the validity of petition signatures by clarifying the requirement that county clerks verify voter signatures in these instances,” read the bill’s statement of purpose.

The law imposes “stricter signature requirements for mail ballots,” according to the Brennan Center.

More than half of states, including Idaho, use signature matching to verify mail-in ballots, according to the New York Times. States compare signatures on government documents to the ones put on ballot envelopes.

Idaho is on the less restrictive side when it comes to voting rights, said Jeffrey Lyons, associate professor in the Boise State University School of Public Service.

Residents have to register to vote online or by mail 25 days before election day, but in-person registration is available up to and on Election Day. The Gem State also has absentee and early voting. 

"I tend to think of Idaho as being kind of in the middle of the pack of states ... maybe (being) a little bit towards the expansive (side)," Lyons said.

This article was originally published in the Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com

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