BOISE — A bill meant to add consistency and strengthen the identification requirements for voter registration and voting was sent to the House for potential amendments on Friday, after pointed questioning toward the secretary of state.
The House State Affairs Committee went at ease prior to voting. A couple of members took aside the bill sponsors, and then the committee without further discussion voted unanimously to send it to general orders — which is the process by which bills may be amended on the House floor. However, it’s likely a new bill on the subject with adjustments will return to the committee instead, said one of the sponsors, Secretary of State Phil McGrane.
McGrane and Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, presented HB 126, which would designate valid photo identification and residency information that can be used for registration and voting. It also removes the option to use student ID for voting but requires the transportation department to provide a free photo identification to qualifying individuals for voting and registration.
“This has been a very important piece of legislation for the office this session, and it really is to provide consistency and clarity,” McGrane said.
He mentioned this legislation in a previous interview with the Idaho Press about his goals for the office.
During discussion of the bill, McGrane faced repeated questioning about what mechanisms are in place to ensure those voting are U.S. citizens and meet other requirements for voting legally.
Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, questioned McGrane about how the citizenship of someone trying to register or vote would be verified by the valid ID named in the bill, such as a concealed weapons license — which is already an acceptable form of photo ID to use at the polls.
McGrane responded that there are cross checks with the Idaho Department of Transportation, Idaho Vital Statistics, Idaho Department of Corrections, the U.S. Social Security, and Department of Homeland Security. A person who votes must also sign under threat of a felony that they are a citizen when they vote, and it is pursued should it be found that person lied, he said.
“We don’t see non-citizens attempting to vote in the United States,” McGrane said. “The risks are so high in terms of the criminal penalties related to doing that, that it isn’t the problem.”
Young told the Idaho Press that she took McGrane and Mitchell aside to see if they were amenable to potential changes regarding the verification of citizenship, and they were. There will likely be adjustments to reflect that in a new version of the bill, McGrane said.
Committee Chairperson Brent Crane, R-Nampa, questioned if an out-of-state student came to a university in Idaho, if they would be able to use their out-of-state ID and the enrollment papers to vote.
McGrane said if that student chooses to claim residency in Idaho, and could prove residency with the approved paperwork, the student would be able to vote in Idaho elections.
“I think I understand,” Crane responded to McGrane’s explanation, “I don’t like it. I think they should have to have an Idaho license.”
McGrane noted that current requirements for identification, both photo and proof of residency, are specific and strict for voting but are more vague for registration. This causes confusion among poll workers when voters ask to register on election day, he said.
The list of acceptable identification cards includes Idaho driver’s license, an out-of-state driver’s license, a current passport, current tribal card, or current concealed weapons license. A new, four-year photo identification card would also be available for those 18 or older who aren’t in possession of a driver’s license and indicate a need for one for voting, under the legislation. If Idaho residency wasn’t proven with the photo identification, such as with an out-of-state license, that would need to be verified separately.
Residency must be shown using documents such as current proof of insurance, mortgage or rental agreement, utility bill, a bank statement or enrollment papers at a high school or higher education institution in Idaho.
Guido covers Idaho politics for the Lewiston Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News and Idaho Press of Nampa. She may be contacted at email@example.com and can be found on Twitter @EyeOnBoiseGuido.