Voter trust eroding in Idaho

By Lauren Necochea
Idaho Democratic Party Chair

Lauren NecocheaVoters need to be able to trust their elected leaders to safeguard our democratic processes. That trust is eroding in Idaho. Disturbing bills coming from the Republican supermajority threaten to undo votes of the people, make it harder for Idahoans to exercise their voting rights, gerrymander political districts, and much more.

One of the most brazen attacks comes in House Bill 637. This bill would dissolve the duly elected Ada County Highway District (ACHD) board and dictate new commissioner districts. It mandates more representation for small towns like Star compared to larger cities like Meridian or Boise, violating the “one person, one vote” principle. And it would make these offices partisan, creating the only partisan local taxing district in Idaho.

This assault stems from a policy disagreement. ACHD’s current commissioners want to invest in pedestrian and bike safety — a critical need as traffic deaths skyrocket — and several campaigned on this platform. Some Republican legislators oppose safety investments and have already passed legislation restricting ACHD funding “primarily” to traffic mitigation. Unsatisfied, they now want to kick fairly elected commissioners out of office.

House Bill 667 arbitrarily limits your right to choose how you vote. You would have to provide an excuse for using an absentee ballot, with the only valid reasons being travel throughout early voting and Election Day, illness, or disability. If long work shifts, lack of transportation, or caregiving responsibilities prevent you from going to the polls, you lose your vote.

House Bill 599 makes it illegal to deposit your neighbor’s sealed ballot as a favor. It also makes it illegal for you to deliver a family member’s ballot if you have shared your opinion on how to vote — a common conversation in many families. Tampering with a ballot is already illegal. This bill criminalizes helping a properly cast ballot get counted.

The ballot initiative process enshrined in our Idaho Constitution gives voters the right to enact laws. The Republican supermajority resents this and continues to make it more cumbersome. House Bill 652 requires voter-signed petitions be submitted monthly. This complicates the hard work of collecting signatures while disenfranchising voters. You could sign a petition you strongly support only to have your signature invalidated because a volunteer didn’t submit it within a restrictive time frame. The government won’t notify you, so you won’t know your voice was taken away.

House Joint Resolution 4 is a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to undo the Open Primaries Initiative citizens have put forth before it could take effect by prohibiting runoff elections.

Rewriting the rules when you don’t like the outcome of an election or fear an anticipated electoral result is tyrannical. Let’s start electing lawmakers who respect the democratic process.