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Idaho Senate Approves Bill Allowing Larger Centers For In-Person Voting

Idaho Public Television

The Idaho Senate has approved a bill that adds an in-person voting option on Election Day in November.

The legislation was one of several bills to be considered during the first day of a special session.

As the Idaho legislature considers election-related measures, one theme is clear. Legislators, such as Sen. Jim Rice [R-Caldwell], say Idahoans want to be able to go to the polls.

“I’ve had senior citizens in my district stopping me in the grocery store and other places that they see me, saying, ‘Make sure we’re doing to be able to vote in person.’ They do not want to vote absentee. They want to vote in person," Rice said.

And election officials such Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane say that’s what they want too. He’s asking legislators to allow counties to create voting centers for people who may have had their polling place close because of the coronavirus or for other reasons.

“What we would do is make it possible for any voter to go to any location to vote," McGrane said.

But the bill’s main intent, says the sponsor, Sen. Patti Anne Lodge [R-Canyon County], is to make voting in person safer, both for those casting ballots and those who handle them.

“In preparation for the August election, which is tomorrow, clerks experienced a significant number of poll workers not wanting to work due to the rise associated with Covid-19. Similarly, some polling places are no longer available or adequate during the pandemic. Elections offices are moving out of senior centers and assisted living facilities," Lodge said.

Her bill allows elections offices to create voting centers that have more space and that may be more centrally located and easier for voters to access. The bill would apply only to the November election.

The legislation was approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee and then by the full Senate, 31-to-four on Monday. It now moves to the House.