Monday, February 18, 2013

Early Voting Bill, Streamlining Process, Gets Affirmative Vote From Idaho House Committee

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Following unprecedented lines of early voters leading up to last November's election, state officials want to dramatically alter the process of moving ballots. A proposed measure that would change early voting procedures—and presumably speed up the vote count—moved through an Idaho legislative committee this morning with a "do pass" recommendation to the full membership of the Idaho House.

"In Ada County, our population has grown 33 percent while our election costs have grown 313 percent," Phil McGrane, Ada County chief deputy clerk, told members of the House State Affairs Committee today. "The cost and complexity has risen dramatically. But we're trying to reduce the complexity so that we can focus on the accuracy and integrity of the voting process."

McGrane told lawmakers that Ada County needed to hire 90 additional workers on Election Night simply to open envelopes containing early ballots.

The proposed measure—presented by Tim Hurst, Idaho chief deputy secretary of state—would simplify the early voting process.

"This bill doesn't extend or change the period of early voting. It changes the process," said Hurst. "Rather than having someone fill out an absentee request form, sign an affidavit envelope and putting that envelope inside another envelope, this procedure of early voting would be the same as we use on Election Day."

Hurst said each of Idaho's county clerks could choose which procedure to follow—the old or the newer, preferred method—but he argued that the savings in time and manpower in using the new proccess would be substantive.

"When an early voter shows up, they would sign a poll book, much like they would do on Election Day," said Hurst. "For those who want to register, we entered that information into a live database. Early voting is perhaps the most secured process."

McGrane said folding the early ballots into envelopes was particularly cumbersome to a well-known elector.

"Jim Tibbs is a newly elected Ada County commissioner. You may not know that he has one arm," said McGrane. "He said it was a significant challenge in all of the folding and all of the envelopes."

The measure—House Bill 107—passed through the committee with only three committee members, Lava Hot Springs Republican Rep. Ken Andrus, Meridian Republican Rep. Jason Monks and Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Kathleen Sims, voting "no."

"This is a good bill," said Hurst. "Our office has received a number of phone calls and letters from voters who were unhappy with the long lines at early voting."

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