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Idaho House to consider whether to eliminate outside ballot boxes

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
This is one of more two dozen ballot boxes in Spokane County. The Idaho legislature is considering whether to eliminate these in the Gem State.

A new bill may receive a hearing this week

An Idaho House committee is due to consider a bill this week to ban the use of ballot boxes as collection points for absentee ballots.

The House State Affairs Committee has voted to introduce the legislation that’s sponsored by Rep. Priscilla Giddings [R-Idaho County].

“We’ve seen across the country where these situations could allow ballot harvesting. But also there are concerns that these locations may be an opportunity for somebody to disrupt your ballots, if it were to catch fire or flood or maybe food is stuffed in there and could contaminate ballots," Giddings said.

Though he voted to introduced Giddings' bill, Boise Democrat Chris Mathias pushed back.

“Could you bring it home for us and provide an example of an existing instance in Idaho where a ballot box led to some sort of problem in an election?” he asked.

"I don’t have examples of here in Idaho. It’s my understanding that they’ve only been used recently," Giddings said. She noted that the state doesn't have an inventory of ballot boxes because they're only used in some counties. She said her bill is a proactive move to stop instances of people stuffing boxes or attempting to steal ballots.

Mathias said he thinks the bill attempts to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

The bill is due for a committee hearing soon.

Legislators in several states have proposed restrictions or bans on the use of outside ballot boxes.

In Washington, where elections are conducted all by mail, drop boxes are common. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton says they've been available to voters for the last 16 years. She says there have been no cases of tampering with a ballot box, though one box was hit by a car and sheared off of its support post. She says the box itself was not harmed.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.