February 16, 2013

Team Yurst’s Bad Idea

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 9:23 am

ysursa copyIdaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and his Chief Deputy Tim Hurst seem intent on producing “election reform” laws that are unnecessary, laws that are a solution in search of a problem.

In this session of the Idaho Legislature, Team Yurst has proposed House Bill 0063,  short-titled “The Early Voting Opportunity Act.”

This Act, if passed, would require every county clerk in any county with more than 25,000 persons to have at least 2 and sometimes 3 absent electors’ polling places open at least 5 days per week for 9 hours per day between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. commencing 21 days before the election.  The Fiscal Note accompanying the proposed legislation states, “The cost to run an early voting center for 15 days prior to an election (including labor, rental, and materials) is estimated to be between $5,000 and $7,500.”

For several reasons, the Team Yurst proposal would be bad law.  It should be rejected by the Legislature. 

1.  If enacted today, the Act would impose additional arbitrary costs on 13 of Idaho’s 44 counties (based on 2011 population estimates) to comply with the Act for which a defined and explicit need has not been demonstrated.

2.  Existing law (I.C. § 34-1006) already requires each of Idaho’s 44 counties to have 1 absent electors’ polling place.  That same section already allows each of Idaho’s counties to individually and separately determine if the need exists for additional absent electors’ polling places and to provide them if needed.

The proposed Act would require each and every county with a total population of 25,001 or more to fund additional absent electors’ polling places even if no demonstrable need exists.  Note that the requirement would be based entirely on census population and not on the distribution of qualified electors throughout the county.   Based on 2011 Idaho population estimates, the Act would require 4 counties to have at least 3 absent elector polling places.  The Act would require an additional 9 counties to have at least 2 absent elector polling places.  The cost to fund each absent electors’ polling place would be borne by each county.

3. The State’s statutory duty is to provide qualified electors with the means and materials to vote lawfully and without unreasonable or unlawful impediments.  Existing law meets the State’s statutory duty and provides all electors with equal access to voting.

It is not the State’s statutory duty to use public money to “get out the vote.”  Encouraging voter participation is the responsibility of individuals, civic groups, and even political parties.

I.C. Title 34, Chapter 10 already provides for absent elector voting by mail, early absent elector voting at one absent electors’ polling place (or more if needed as identified by the county), and election day voting at polling places.    Current law provides that a deputy clerk will assist certain special needs voters who cannot attend a polling place or who cannot mark a ballot.

Idaho’s existing election law treats every qualified elector equally when it comes to access to voting.  Every qualified elector can present himself at a polling place on election day.  Every qualified elector can vote by absentee ballot, either by mail or in person at the one or more absent electors’ polling places deemed necessary by that elector’s county clerk.  Every qualified elector can receive assistance completing a ballot.

It is evident from the wording of House Bill 0063 that Team Yurst’s intent is to mandate easier and more convenient voting for qualified electors in more populated urban counties.  Thus, urban voters will be given “more equal” access to early voting than their rural counterparts.  Qualified electors make conscious, personal choices about where they live and work and when they are present in Idaho.  It is not the responsibility of the State to expend public money to overcome inconveniences or compensate for the choices made voluntarily by each qualified elector.    It is not the responsibility of the State to make access to voting “more equal” for some than for others.

ADDENDUM:  02-20-2013.   Please follow this link to Error Correction posted today.


  1. Of course. This is brought to you by the same two yahoo’s that couldn’t properly define the recall laws in order to create a preferred outcome. Both of them need to GO!

    Comment by concerned citizen — February 16, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

  2. …and we just keep re electing this guy……….

    Comment by Ancientemplar — February 17, 2013 @ 7:56 am

  3. My OpenCdA post titled Pulling the Plug on Satellites (August 22, 2011) linked back to the local skewspaper’s article dated August 21, 2011, headlined Vote here, only. Note that the skewspaper article, while unquestionably trying to make County Clerk Cliff Hayes out to be some kind of villain for taking seriously his responsibility for election integrity, actually reported that political hacks Coeur d’Alene Councilman Mike Kennedy and Post Falls City Administrator Eric Keck had given election integrity almost no thought. Convenience to voters in their cities was paramount, but election integrity? Kennedy and Keck apparently could not have cared less.

    Both Keck and Kennedy suggested maybe the new County Clerk, Cliff Hayes, didn’t trust the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls City Hall staffs. Nice deflection, but complete BS. Here’s the bigger issue: Under the election consolidation laws now in effect, the County Clerk is solely responsible and accountable for election integrity. Keck and Kennedy would like for their respective cities to assume that responsibility again. Why? Do they really want their cities to become entangled in another election contest lawsuit when it is alleged that the ballot boxes they agreed to keep under lock and key in City Hall were compromised? No competent and honest public official would want to assume the risk of having it asserted that ballot boxes in his city’s custody were stuffed. Moreover, the law does not explicitly give the County Clerk the authority to delegate the responsibility for election integrity to anyone outside his office.

    The last line of the proposed legislation HB 0063 is laughable: It outlaws electioneering in the absent electors’ polling places and refers readers to I.C. §18-2318. Where in Idaho Code, Title 18, is “electioneering” defined? It seems to me that the very act of putting an absent electors’ polling place in a city hall is in itself an act of “electioneering” when candidates on the ballots at that polling place work and have offices at that city hall. Call it electioneering by proximity, but it gives an advantage to the incumbent who can just “hang around” the polling place at his office.

    If the County Clerk determines that absent electors’ polling places are needed, he already has the statutory authority to site and staff them at county expense.

    Comment by Bill — February 17, 2013 @ 9:06 am

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