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House panel backs emergency bill banning ballot drop boxes

Rep. Priscilla Giddings’ bill to ban ballot drop boxes in Idaho elections – including the upcoming May primary – cleared a House committee on a 10-3 vote Wednesday.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

Rep. Priscilla Giddings’ bill to ban ballot drop boxes in Idaho elections – including the upcoming May primary – cleared a House committee on a 10-3 vote today and headed to the full House, though it drew all-negative public testimony. 

“We want people to vote as much as possible, but we also need secure elections,” Giddings, who is running for lieutenant governor, told the panel. “So there’s definitely a cost-benefit analysis when you look at the use of drop-off locations.”

“I think that there’s a higher benefit to not having these, with potential fraud or some unforeseen circumstance that could contaminate ballots in a location where there’s not somebody there to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” said the third-term state representative from White Bird.

Among those testifying against the bill was Owhyee County Clerk Angela Barkell, who said her county’s ballot drop boxes are secure and help voters avoid driving 70 miles to Murphy to drop off their ballots. “If it’s not broke, why are we trying to fix it?” Barkell asked. “There’s been no issues with ballot box stuffing … or the safety of the ballot.”

Other several people speaking against the bill was Sam Sandmire, who said, “There’s no reason at all to eliminate ballot drop-off boxes, no legitimate reason. It’s just another unnecessary bill that will make it harder for people to vote. … I think we should let the county clerks decide what is good for their area, for their county.”

After public testimony was cut off for lack of time, Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, moved to send the bill to the full House with a recommendation that it “do pass.” Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “I think it’s a reasonable balance to try to protect against that possible fraud and malfeasance.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, made a substitute motion to hold the bill in committee, killing it. “I’ve never heard of a problem with these boxes,” he said. “I think this is going to create a great inconvenience for people in Melba and our rural areas, as well as people in Boise, and also I think it’s going to result in voter suppression.”

Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, said, “Every clerk in my district is opposed to this bill. I’ve used these dropboxes. They’re secure. I see no reason to have this bill go forward.” He was the only Republican to join the panel’s two minority Democrats in supporting Gannon’s substitute motion, which failed 3-10; Armstrong’s motion to advance the bill then passed, 10-3.

Giddings had earlier introduced a personal bill, HB 485, also aimed at outlawing ballot dropboxes. Like all personal bills, that measure was assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee and hasn't gotten a hearing. Her new bill, HB 693, was just introduced on Monday in the House State Affairs Committee; it includes an emergency clause to make it take effect immediately upon passage.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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