Idaho panel OKs less restrictive ‘ballot harvesting’ bill

A revamped version of a proposed law making it a felony in Idaho for third parties to collect and return multiple ballots to election officials headed to the full House for debate and a vote after it passed in committee on Monday.

The House State Affairs Committee approved the bill that has several significant changes from the bill that was pulled from the House floor earlier this month after debate tilted toward almost certain defeat.

The new bill changes from two to six the number of ballots a single family member can deliver. It also redefines family to include adopted children. The proposed law limits who can handle multiple ballots to election officials, U.S. postal service workers and parcel delivery services.

The previous legislation also caused concerns that violations might be felonies. But Republican House Majority Leader Mike Moyle kept the felony charge penalty for violations in the new version.

More than half of states allow third parties to collect ballots. Political groups and campaigns from both parties have run ballot-collection programs aimed at boosting turnout and ensuring voters who are older, homebound, disabled, or live far from U.S. postal services can get their ballots returned.

But questions about the practice intensified leading up to and following the general election in November, when many more absentee ballots were cast due to the coronavirus pandemic, including in Idaho. Former President Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud involving absentee ballots that were rejected by courts.

Moyle cited those claims in arguing for a felony penalty for violations.

The committee voted to send the bill to the full House without a public hearing, noting that the previous version of the bill did have a hearing. (AP)