Idaho Senate OKs bill to make permanent absentee ballot changes

Legislation to make permanent changes in Idaho’s absentee ballot counting procedure passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to the House.

The Senate voted 35-0 to approve the bill intended to speed absentee vote counting. It was used in the last general election and spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers during an August special session approved a law allowing the opening and scanning of absentee ballots, but not counting votes, beginning seven days before Election Day. But that law expired Dec. 31st.

Election officials said the change allowed county clerks to quickly report results of the November election. Idaho officials encouraged absentee and early voting because of the pandemic. About 400,000 of Idaho’s 1 million registered voters used absentee ballots and another 100,000 voted early. In all, a record-breaking 880,000 ballots were cast.

The law would also require that if any absentee ballots are opened before election day, they are maintained in an electronically accessed and secured area that is under 24-hour video surveillance livestreamed to the public. Also, a minimum of two election officials must be present whenever the absentee ballots are accessed.

The law would also require the video to be archived for at least 90 days after the election. (AP)