BOISE • One Idaho lawmaker’s push to create an online voter registration portal received mixed reviews and immediate opposition Monday at its first introduction hearing.
State Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, presented the bill to the House State Affairs Committee that would allow voters to register to vote online, a method available only in handful of states like Utah and Arizona.
“What you find across the country … you have a younger voting generation who are accustomed to online registration or online banking or online everything,” Erpelding said. “So there’s an expectation that we move toward a more digital system.”
Erpelding said the new system wouldn’t replace the paper method but help eliminate the time and cost county election workers spend processing new voter registrations. The new website would be connected through the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles’ website.
Currently, the only way to register to vote in Idaho is by filling out a card 25 days before an election or on Election Day.
The estimated cost to set up the portal is $300,000, Erpelding said. The bill is also being co-sponsored by state Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. The two are among the state’s youngest lawmakers.
“Now, because this is an introductory hearing, I haven’t provided you any information but when I come back to my first hearing, I will be happy to provide more information regarding this (bill),” he said.
“I admire your optimism,” said state Rep. Tom Loertschier, R-Iona, and committee chairman.
Several lawmakers pushed Erpelding for more details on why the new system would be needed and how it would work.
“You mentioned that there’s problem with security, can you explain those problems we’re having?” asked state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.
“Actually, I didn’t mention there were problems,” Erpelding said. “What I’m saying this is a more secure system than what we have.”
Twin Falls County Election Director Valerie Varedi said she and her employees filed almost 6,500 cards for voters who chose to register to vote the day of the 2012 presidential election. In the November 2013 election, the number was closer to 200, she said.
An online system could help cut back on the time spent inputting the information but Varedi said she would also like to know about the security features protecting voter information.
The committee approved the bill with state Reps. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens and Crane opposing.