Elections: In Idaho the Voting’s Easy

by Judy Ferro

Have you voted yet?

I know, many like to wait to Nov. 8 and get the full Election Day experience. But some like to do vote at home where they can take their time, check out candidates’ websites, or call dad for advice—and they are already turning ballots in.

Early voting at the Elections Office (1102 E Chicago St, Caldwell) starts today.   Line forms to the right from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturdays through Friday, Nov. 4.

There are good reasons to put off voting a little longer though. The Idaho Press-Tribune will soon publish legislative candidates’ answers to questions on issues as varied as what to do about the roads, how to get more kids to earn a certificate or diploma after high school, and should we ban aerial fireworks. And, in the ten days between Oct. 18 and 27 there will be candidate forums in Caldwell, Nampa, and Parma.

And there will be 56 precinct polls open Nov. 8 providing service with minimal waiting time—though it may not seem that way to early birds who line up before 8 a.m. Idahoans see nothing like the five-hour waits in some states.

I am proud to live in a state that makes it easy to vote. Okay, maybe not as easy as Oregon, Washington, and Colorado that mail ballots to every registered voter, but still pretty easy. A 2014 study found that waiting times in most states are decreasing, but where the waits are long, they are getting longer, possibly as a voter suppression maneuver.

Idaho is one of the 31 states that asks for voter identification, but the law here is different than the ones struck down by the courts. For one thing, election officials accept any ID with photo issued by an Idaho institution. For another, voters without ID can sign an affidavit swearing to their identity and receive a regular ballot.

On the plus side, Idaho is one of just 11 states that allows same-day registration. Other states may have hundreds disenfranchised because people destroyed registration cards rather than turning them into the state or because officials deleted names of valid voters from their roles. Here, such actions can be corrected in the time it takes to fill out another form and present proof of residence.

Voter turnout in states with same day registration is about 12% higher than in other states.

A second plus is the availability of on-line services for voters. At idahovotes.gov, Idahoans can check their registration status and access forms for registration and for requesting absentee ballots. At canyonco.org/voterlookup, Canyon County residents can preview the candidates and issues that will be on their upcoming ballot.

Allowing felons to vote once their sentence is served is also a plus but one widely shared. Only three states—Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky—never allow felons to regain the right to vote. In 2000 Florida hired a company to remove the names of anyone who had committed a felon in any state from their voting roles. They didn’t bother to match birthdate or social security number, so they managed to bar even one of the state’s U.S. representatives from voting.

In 2012 Idaho’s voter turnout for the presidential election was 61% of the voting age population, higher than the 58.6% national average even though we have larger than average numbers of two low-turnout groups: Hispanics and those aged 19-30.

Be happy—and proud—to vote in Idaho.

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