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Idaho election process not in need of major change

Press-Tribune Editorial board
February 6, 2013
Idaho Press-Tribune

Do eligible Idaho voters have a problem making their voices heard on Election Day? Idaho Democrats think so, so they have proposed legislation that would change the way the Gem State conducts elections.

Lawmakers from the state's minority party introduced bills in the Idaho Legislature that would:

* Allow voters to register online and verify their signatures at the county Department of Motor Vehicles

* Have the DMV provide voter registration material to anyone of legal voting age (who would fill those forms out and send them to the county elections office)

* Require the Republican Party to repay counties for additional expenses resulting from its closed primary

* Require counties to operate early voting centers, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for three weeks up to Election Day, and

* Require counties to set up polling places that allow both Election Day registration and voting.

No funding mechanism was provided for these bills, which is ironic, given the fact the party wants Republicans to pay for additional expenses incurred from their closed primary. But they are on to something there: The GOP should pay any additional expenses arising from their closed primary. In fact, let's admit closed primaries are a bad idea and get rid of them entirely. It was wildly unpopular with independent-minded Idahoans, resulted in lower turnout and didn't accomplish its stated goal of victory for more "conservative" candidates.

Making voter registration information available at the DMV is OK, too, but the people who staff that busy office shouldn't have the added task of verifying signatures. Online registration is a dicey proposition as well, as it would open the door wider for potential fraud. The current voter registration process is adequate, as long as ensures people with disabilities and travel limitations can still be served.

As far as early voting goes, we already have that, too - in the form of absentee ballots. There isn't a need for a statewide "early voting center" mandate.

Is early voting a good idea? Not necessarily. What happens if any major revelations about candidates surface a few days before the election, and you've already voted? But if that's what you want to do, grab an absentee ballot.

If a particular precinct experiences large voter turnout and is concerned about crowding and voters being turned away, it should be granted additional resources - polling workers, venues, etc. - to accommodate the turnout. But a statewide mandate - especially an unfunded one - to combat a problem that doesn't exist in many precincts is over the top.

Voting is a cherished right. But not everyone follows politics, and some people don't want to. That's their right, and they shouldn't be strong-armed into voting if they'd rather not.

Idaho's election system might be better served with a few minor tweaks, but it doesn't need this kind of major overhaul at this time.

* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Maria Radovich, Mike Fuller, Kenton Lee, Rich Cartney, Megan Harrison and Kelly Gibbons.

Originally posted at

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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