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House narrowly passes Rep. Giddings' emergency bill to ban ballot drop boxes

The Idaho House narrowly passed Rep. Giddings’ emergency bill to ban ballot drop-off boxes, effective immediately, over the opposition of county clerks and others.

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

The Idaho House has narrowly passed Rep. Priscilla Giddings’ emergency bill to ban ballot drop-off boxes, effective immediately, over the opposition of county clerks, voting rights advocates and others. Giddings told the House, “We know that we have concerned Idahoans across the state that are worried about election integrity. I don’t think there is a huge need for drop boxes now.” She said, “This is one small step we can take to reassure voters of election security in Idaho.”

Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, debating against the bill, said, “We have several drop-off boxes in my area. … And they worked really well, they were really efficient in rural areas. They gave us options so that we could get those ballots in.” Plus, she said the wording of the bill appeared so broad that it could actually outlaw placing ballots in rural mailboxes, a point Giddings disputed.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said drop boxes are an important convenience for both rural and urban voters, especially those who work during the day and can’t get into the county clerk’s office to drop off their ballots. “Most important, what is the problem here?” he asked. “Where is the problem with drop boxes? … In fact, most states allow drop boxes.” 

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, saiad, “The drop boxes are an opportunity for wrecking an election.”

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, who is running for Idaho secretary of state, said, “This is a very easy fix for election integrity in this state. … They can use the mail.”

Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, an attorney, echoed Blanksma’s concerns about the definitions in the bill. “If there’s a security issue, then let’s address the security issue,” he said, “but I think this is highly problematic. … I’m all for secure elections, but we shouldn’t be creating unnecessary challenges to having somebody’s legitimate vote count.”

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, asked Blanksma what would happen if someone set up a fake drop-box and collected other people’s ballots. Blanksma read from existing state law and said, “Tampering with anybody’s vote is a felony.”

Moon, debating for a second time, said, “Why are we putting it out there to make it easier for crime or for illegal votes to cancel out legal votes?”

Giddings, in her closing debate, said, “I appreciate that our drop boxes are secure,” but she said she wanted “to make sure … it’s not contaminated in some form or fashion.”

The bill initially passed on a 38-32 vote, but then Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City, said he’d voted in error and changed his vote from yes to no, for a final tally of 37-33. The bill now moves to senators for consideration.

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

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