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Eye On Boise

Wanted? You can still vote without fear

Wanted? Don't let it stop you from voting in the primary election on May 25th. According to an obscure Idaho law that dates all the way back to 1891, Idaho electors - that's voters - are "privileged from arrest, except for treason, a felony or breach of the peace, during their attendance at a polling place." That means Idahoans wanted for minor crimes can show up to vote without fear that the cops will nab them even as they cast their ballots. However, there's no restriction on arrests once those folks have finished voting and left the polling place.

Asked the reason for the law, Idaho Code 34-401, a laughing Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said, "I have no idea. In my 36 years here, it's never been an issue." He said, "Maybe we had some scoundrels who they didn't want to discourage from voting. Who knows?" Ysursa noted that Idaho's election laws were revamped in 1970, but the privilege-from-arrest law was kept, while various out-of-date voting restrictions were wiped off the books, like the one that said people who "frequented houses of ill repute" couldn't vote. A more recent law change repealed the old state law that said liquor by the drink couldn't be sold while the polls were open. "It's just a vestige of the past," Ysursa said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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