Throughout history, generations of Americans have fought for the right to vote. We must be ever-vigilant when there are attempts to chip away at this right, as we see today in Idaho.
With our free and fair elections strong — as demonstrated by recent audits — it is troubling to see the latest slate of voter suppression bills. Republican legislators seem intent on creating new hurdles — especially younger voters — rather than protecting the voice of Idahoans in our political process. Additionally, we are seeing a renewed effort to undermine our ballot initiative rights.
Assaults on your right to vote are not new. Two years ago, Republican leader Mike Moyle brought a bill to make it a felony to deliver your elderly neighbor’s sealed ballot on her behalf. He famously said, “voting shouldn’t be easy.”
Judging by recent proposals, this dangerous attitude is still held by a group of Republican legislators. HB 75 would repeal our decades-old right to cast mail-in ballots without having to give a reason. During the 2022 general election, 129,210 Idahoans voted by mail. This made it easier for students and others to participate.
HB 54 eliminates student IDs and personal identification affidavits at the polls. Despite zero known cases of fraud with alternative forms of identification, this overly burdensome ID law risks depriving eligible Idahoans of their right to vote.
Having run for office myself, I understand the assignment. I make my case to voters and they decide. Elections ought to be about winning on your merits, not making it harder for certain people to vote. When politicians choose the second approach, take note.
They are trying to seize power without earning it.
A power grab is also the motivation behind a new resolution. SJR 101, sponsored by 29 Republican legislators, calls for a constitutional amendment to make getting an initiative on the ballot practically impossible. This proposal is nearly identical to a 2021 law struck down by the Idaho Supreme Court as not only unconstitutional but ‘tyrannical.’
Ballot initiatives and referendums serve as an important check on the power of the Legislature.
Voters have used them to enact popular policies like our homeowner’s property tax exemption and Medicaid expansion. And also to reject the unpopular ‘Luna Laws,’ a sweeping set of measures that included mandated online classes for our K-12 students.
Idaho has a proud history of civic participation. Efforts that make it harder or all but impossible for Idahoans — particularly people living in rural communities, students, and people with disabilities — to exercise their right to vote or bring forth a ballot initiative pose a grave threat to our democracy. Like the generations before us, we must protect our fundamental rights before it is too late.
Lauren Necochea, Idaho Democratic Party Chair