“No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which…we must live. Other rights…are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”–U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black
Today, Idaho’s Democratic Legislators unveiled a slate of bills designed to protect our most fundamental right as citizens of the United States of America – our precious right to vote. The five bills, collectively known as the Voting Opportunity and Trustworthy Elections [VOTE] Initiative, were drafted to ensure that every Idahoan has the opportunity to vote:
· The Online Voter Registration Act modernizes our election system by requiring the state of Idaho to work with counties in developing an online process for voter registration. Security will be validated using Idaho driver’s licenses or identification cards. With House State Affairs Chair.
· The Motor Voter Act provides voter registration materials to anyone 18 years and older who seeks any kind of driver’s license service. If filled out at the DMV, these forms will be forwarded to the proper county authority. http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/H0060.htm
· The Private Election Taxpayer Compensation Act requires payment to the counties for all added incremental costs incurred in a primary election if a political party does not allow all electors to participate. http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/H0059.htm
· The Early Voting Opportunity Act requires a county of less than 25,000 residents to operate at least one early voting center, a county of between 25,000 and 100,000 to operate at least two geographically distributed early voting centers, and a county of over 100,000 to operate at least three geographically distributed early voting centers. All centers will operate a minimum of 5 days-a-week (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) for 21 days prior to the election. http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/H0063.htm
· The Voter Convenience Act requires counties to set up at least one full-service polling place in a population center that allows election-day voting and voter registration for all voters residing in a county. Voter education at the full-service polling place and existing safeguards will ensure that no votes are counted twice. House State Affairs voted today to return to sponsors.
Prior to the November election, Idaho Democrats spoke with thousands of individuals. Many of these citizens, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, voiced deep concerns about the elections process. Based on this widespread concern, Idaho Democrats closely monitored the election process from the controversial closed primary in March, to voter registration, to absentee signup and balloting, to early voting, to Election Day.
We saw hardworking individuals and elected officials doing their best to ensure access and accountability despite tight budgets and antiquated laws. Sadly, we also witnessed confusion about registration, party affiliation, voter identification requirements, and ballots. People waited in unacceptably long lines. Polling places were inaccessible to many, and people had difficulty getting from work to their polling places in a timely manner. And we observed a private election held at taxpayer expense.
In many counties, people reported that primary election workers would not give them a Democratic ballot if they chose to be unaffiliated. Many voters believed they could only vote for one party’s candidates in the General Election because of the new registration requirements.
If passed, the five bills in the VOTE Initiative will substantially increase voter participation, streamline the voting process, and ensure that taxpayers do not fund private elections.