HB 176, Coeur d’Alene GOP Rep. Kathy Sims’ bill to ban Idaho voters who’ve moved overseas from voting in state or local elections, has been defeated by a single vote in the Senate. The bill was just voted down, 17-18, after senators raised concerns about how it might affect Peace Corps volunteers, students studying internationally or young people serving religious missions. “We’ve got the best system in the world, but it’s only that way because people have the right to vote, and I don’t think we should take that away,” declared Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa. Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, described his son’s Peace Corps volunteer service. “The idea that my son would be deprived of the right to vote while he was off doing service to his country is something that I can’t accept, and I urge you to vote no,” he said.
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, who like McKenzie and Bock is an attorney, said the way the bill is written, “Anybody who just moved to a different house in the state would get swept up in this.”
Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said it was written in response to Canadians voting in a Coeur d’Alene city election. “The purpose of this is not to disenfranchise voters,” Nonini said. “In the case of the voters that voted in the Coeur d’Alene city election, they had purposely left and taken up residence in another country, they didn’t maintain a residence in Idaho.”
The bill earlier passed the House on a 53-14 vote; it was co-sponsored by Sims and Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden.