Eye On Boise

Senate debates election consolidation

The Senate on Tuesday morning prepares to debate sweeping election consolidation legislation. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
The Senate on Tuesday morning prepares to debate sweeping election consolidation legislation. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The Senate is debating HB 372a, the sweeping, 98-page election consolidation bill. "There are 1,245 taxing districts in the state of Idaho, and with few exceptions, they can hold an election any time, any place," Senate sponsor Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, told the Senate. "We have 400 elections each year in the state of Idaho. ... Too often, Idahoans miss elections on issues that they really care about, because the election date is unpredictable or maybe even obscure. A lot of people want to vote, I believe, who don't make it to the polls."

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said the measure - which consolidates nearly all of Idaho's elections to two dates, the fall general election date and the May primary election date - poses the possibility that voters could be confronted with as many as 15 ballots to vote on in a single election. "We could be waiting days for election results, and I don't think that would be a particularly good outcome," Werk told the Senate. Sen. Dick Sagness, D-Pocatello, said the system is working as it is, and the changes could hurt school funding. "What we're doing here is additionally penalizing our schools," he said.

The new bill, unlike an earlier version that passed the House but died in a Senate committee, commits the state to funding the full $4.1 million cost of the change from its general fund, starting in 2011. School districts would be able to use two additional dates for bond and levy elections, in March and August. County clerks would run all elections, and all would use standardized polling places. Hill said one other change in the bill is moving the May primary from the fourth Tuesday to the third, thus avoiding conflict with the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a frequent source of complaints over the years.




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Betsy Z. Russell




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