Attorney General Labrador has no business meddling in election security

By Jim Jones
JJ Commontater

Jim JonesHouse Bill 470 would create an “Office of Election Crimes and Security” in Raul Labrador’s office. That would certainly be a waste of taxpayer dollars. The office staff would have little to do because Idaho elections have historically been fair and honest. The Attorney General’s sidekick, Dorothy Moon, who now chairs the extremist branch of the GOP, was never able to prove her wild claims that Canadians were coming over the border to vote in Idaho elections. The fraud claims of their friend, the My Pillow guy, were proven false. Where is the need for this new office?

Our elections are conducted under the watchful eyes of Idaho’s Secretary of State and our 44 elected County Clerks. They are completely capable of discovering and blowing the whistle on suspected election irregularities. If there were really an actual need for HB 470, the office should be placed in the experienced hands of Secretary of State Phil McGrane, who is Idaho’s recognized expert on elections.

If we are seriously thinking about giving Labrador the broad powers set out in HB 470, we should consider his track record on elections. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a legally preposterous Texas lawsuit challenging the 2020 election, Labrador said he would have joined the suit. There was simply no legal or factual basis for the suit. Even worse, three former Idaho Attorneys General correctly observed that a decision in favor of Texas could have opened the door to attacks by other states on some of Idaho’s laws, including “predator control, water management, educational content, vaccination policy.”

Labrador said he would not have voted to certify the outcome of the 2020 election. There was absolutely no competent evidence of any election irregularity. Idaho’s Senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, voted to certify the election because it was in compliance with all election laws. Crapo said voting against certification “would set a dangerous precedent I cannot support.” If Labrador supports this dangerous precedent, what future dangerous election action might he support?

Labrador was entrusted with the responsibility of furnishing accurate titles for the Open Primaries Initiative last year but violated his statutory duty by failing to do so. The Idaho Supreme Court slapped his hands for refusing to follow the law, ordering him to come up with appropriate titles. He was also ordered to pay $80,000 in attorney fees for his failure to comply with the requirements of the election law.

And what about the issue of giving Labrador more power when he has already exhibited a tendency to overstep the bounds of his existing authority? We may all remember that the AG improperly used consumer protection statutes to demand that his clients at the Department of Health and Welfare turn over piles of records pertaining to a child care grant program. The Department Director said he would have made the records available if Labrador had simply picked up the phone and asked for them. Labrador was personally disqualified from handling the ensuing lawsuit and his replacement lawyer dropped the record demand, presumably because it was without merit. Now the state is facing a request for $187,000 in attorney fees for Labrador’s improper record demand. Giving Labrador actual authority to conduct unwarranted fishing expeditions, either in the election arena or elsewhere, would be an unwise move.

HB 470 estimates the annual cost of the new election crimes office to be $60,000-$80,000. The bill provides broad-ranging authority to set up a sizable operation. It says the AG “shall establish, staff and oversee a voter fraud hotline.” The office “shall employ investigators,” which obviously means more than one. And, of course, at least one attorney position would be needed. I’m sure that staffing, equipping and housing this grand operation would entail a price tag at least ten times the measly cost estimate in the bill. With the low occurrence of voting irregularities in the Gem State, they might all end up sitting around with nothing to do, or worse, doing things they should not be doing.