Idahoans serving abroad in the military or living outside the country for other reasons could get easier access to absentee ballots under a proposal introduced in the Idaho Senate Wednesday that would bring the state into line with a federal law requiring states to allow people living abroad to vote and giving them an emergency ballot if needed.
“We need to make sure that our military and overseas citizens are able to get their ballot and vote absentee more expeditiously,” said Tim Hurst, the secretary of state’s chief deputy. He said the changes to state law include that ballots be mailed 45 days before an election. People could apply to vote later than the 45-day cutoff. They could get the needed registration forms and ballots online, but would need to mail them in for their votes to be valid.
Lt. Col. David Dahle with the Idaho Army National Guard said Idahoans serving in the military support the change. “This is really trying to bring us into sync with the law the federal government passed,” Dahle said. “Idaho is likely to engage in a major deployment over the coming year, and this could affect hundreds of citizens.” There are tentative plans for about 2,000 Guard members to deploy to Iraq this fall, according to Dahle.
Hurst said that absentee voters would be exempt from the proposed requirement to show ID when voting that has been approved by the Idaho House.
The legislation would also end early voting in Idaho elections on the Friday before Election Day, rather than Monday, the day before Election Day. Early voting varies from county to county. Hurst said ending early voting a few days earlier would help county clerks check the list of early voters to ensure that no one votes twice in an election.
The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to hold a full hearing on the voting legislation.