Idaho held two successful elections in 2020. One of them was an all-mail ballot in the May primary and the other was the November presidential election, in which more than a half-million people voted by mail, turnout was a record and Idaho surpassed 1 million registered voters for the first time.
So why, now, do some Republican Idaho legislators want to mess with success?
“You know what? Voting shouldn’t be easy,” Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, said on the House floor Thursday in pitching a bill that would make so-called “ballot harvesting” a felony.
“Ballot harvesting,” despite its ominous-sounding name, is the practice of collecting and delivering ballots on behalf of someone else. In opposition to Moyle’s bill, some legislators, Republican and Democratic, testified to ballot harvesting themselves or having their kids harvest ballots in their households.
In defending his bill, Moyle cited a 2018 North Carolina case in which a Republican operative had tampered with ballots in a congressional race that was won by the Republican candidate and was subsequently overturned.
Note: The perpetrator was caught and prosecuted under the state’s existing laws. Further, what he did wrong was not “ballot harvesting”; it was tampering with the ballots.
But we have noticed something else about the debate: It’s based on unfounded fears, rumors and ultimately, Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Moyle and Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, suggested as much during House floor testimony.
“If you don’t think (it’s a big deal), think about what happened in our country this last year,” Moyle said. “We are trying to prevent, with this bill, Idaho going down the road that other states have gone down.”
Crane echoed that conjecture.
“I don’t know about you but I was keenly tuned to what was happening on the national level, and watched Georgia and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania,” Crane said, vaguely hinting that he believes Trump’s big lie that the results in those states were not legitimate.
Like the “big lie,” the arguments in this debate are based on rumors.
Moyle did the equivalent of spreading fake news by actually citing a picture he saw on Facebook of someone holding “a stack of ballots.” Moyle also recounted a story told to him by a constituent who had heard about an alleged ballot harvesting party. Moyle, himself, even said, “This is a story, I can’t prove it.” As Perry Mason would say, “Complete hearsay.”
How is this even part of reasonable debate on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives?
Crane even suggested that Democrats used ballot harvesting to steal an election in District 6 in north Idaho. He said Democrats held a seat there until the Secretary of State’s Office looked into ballot harvesting, at which point “interestingly enough, that seat flipped.”
Many of us have long held the sanctity of Election Day voting and never before voted by mail. The 2020 elections likely will prove to be a turning point for many voters who appreciated the process of mail-in balloting. Many voters have found that they could spend time looking over their ballot in the comfort of their homes, researching the candidates and issues, which they might not have been aware of had their first sight of the ballot been on Election Day at the ballot box.
Many voters discovered the convenience of grabbing the ballots of their spouses and their kids and dropping them off either in the nearest mailbox or the nearest ballot collection site. Checking the status of their ballots online and well in advance of the election was easier than they thought.
In short, voting was easy — and better.
But some Idaho Republican legislators are ready to make it harder — and worse.
“You’re going to see a series of bills come forward to this body to deal with the issue of election integrity,” Crane said. “This is only one of a myriad of bills that will come forward.”
Sure enough, Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, is bringing a bill in which “presidential electors will be chosen based on which candidate won the most votes among in-person voting on Election Day, and authorize absentee balloting based on military service or sworn physical inability to vote in person.”
Another bill would eliminate August as a possible month to hold an election. Yet another bill would make it harder to get a citizens initiative on the ballot.
Fixing problems in the electoral process should be the goal of Idaho legislators. But they shouldn’t make voting more difficult for voters simply to make it more difficult, and they shouldn’t make it more difficult based on unfounded rumors and lies.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are publisher Rusty Dodge, opinion editor Scott McIntosh and newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community member J.J. Saldaña.