Voters in Idaho will likely need to bring photo identification when they head to the polls in November. The Idaho Senate approved a plan requiring voters to show ID to poll workers when they vote, though it would allow people without identification to sign an affidavit affirming their identity. The House approved the plan its supporters say will curb voter fraud on March 1.
“This isn’t asking anybody for anything we don’t ask for in other areas,” said Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth. “You can’t drive, you can’t cash anything, and you virtually can’t function in society without ID.” He said requiring ID will increase voters’ trust in state elections. The legislation wouldn’t apply to absentee voting or require photo identification when registering to vote in Idaho.
Several Senate Democrats opposed the plan. “In Idaho, we have virtually no evidence of voter fraud. So whatever this legislation is trying to correct, it is not that,” said Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise. She also said checking for ID could lead to longer lines at polling places, and questioned what would happen when poll workers thought someone didn’t look like his or her driver’s license. Kelly said her photo ID doesn’t look like her. She said the law would suppress voter turnout.
“I don’t want anybody to take a rare piece of time to go to the polls to be turned away,” said Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum. She also said she’s worried that voters won’t know about the ID standard for this November’s vote. “In this particular election, I’m concerned that the voters will not be informed enough.”
Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said one group of Idahoans would be particularly affected by the change. “Elderly people don’t have IDs in much greater numbers than the rest of the population,” he said.
Republicans carried the legislation on a 27 to 6 vote. “This isn’t going to be an onerous thing for the poll workers to conduct and carry out,” said Sen. Lee Heinrich, R-Cascade, a former county clerk. Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden, added that now’s the time to limit voter fraud, given the ongoing court battle over a contested city council election in Coeur d’Alene.
“It is not a major issue to show your ID,” said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene. “I’m a little befuddled by all the consternation over this bill. I’m amazed by the fact that you don’t have to show ID.”
The legislation now heads to Gov. Butch Otter. If he signs it into law, voters would need to show ID in the November general election, but not the May primary.