Idaho voter registration bill faces scrutiny

64155e48a547aBill intended to strengthen voter ID requirements sent to House for review. 

BOISE — A bill meant to add consistency and strengthen the identification requirements for voter registration and voting was sent to the House for potential amendments Friday, after pointed questioning of the secretary of state.

The House State Affairs Committee went at ease prior to voting. A couple of members took aside the bill sponsors, and then the committee, without further discussion, voted unanimously to send it to general orders — which is the process by which bills may be amended on the House floor. However, it’s likely a new bill on the subject with adjustments will return to the committee instead, said one of the sponsors, Secretary of State Phil McGrane.

McGrane and Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, presented HB 126, which would designate valid photo identification and residency information that can be used for registration and voting. It also removes the option to use student ID for voting but requires the transportation department to provide a free photo identification to qualifying individuals for voting and registration.

“This has been a very important piece of legislation for the office this session, and it really is to provide consistency and clarity,” McGrane said.

He mentioned this legislation in a previous interview with the Idaho Press about his goals for the office.

During discussion of the bill, McGrane faced repeated questioning about what mechanisms are in place to ensure those voting are U.S. citizens and meet other requirements for voting legally.

Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, questioned McGrane about how the citizenship of someone trying to register or vote would be verified by the valid ID named in the bill, such as a concealed weapons license — which is already an acceptable form of photo ID to use at the polls.

McGrane responded that there are cross checks with the Idaho Department of Transportation, Idaho Vital Statistics, Idaho Department of Corrections, the U.S. Social Security, and Department of Homeland Security. A person who votes must also sign under threat of a felony that they are a citizen when they vote, and it is pursued should it be found that person lied, he said.

“We don’t see non-citizens attempting to vote in the United States,” McGrane said. “The risks are so high in terms of the criminal penalties related to doing that, that it isn’t the problem.”

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