Comments on SB1375

Click Here to Download a PDF Version of these Comments

RE: SB1375

DisAbility Rights Idaho is the designated Protection and Advocacy system for the
State of Idaho. As such, DRI advocates for the rights of Idahoans with Disabilities
and would like to provide education on how proposed legislation will affect the
lives of Idahoans with disabilities. DRI has reviewed SB1375 and the changes to
voter registration, absentee registration and voting. DRI would like take this
opportunity to provide comments on the effects changes in this bill would have on
the rights of eligible Idaho voters with disabilities.
Such strict limitations present significant barriers for Idahoans with disabilities to
exercise their fundamental right to vote, including those who are aging, live in
rural areas, live in facilities, live in facilities in rural areas, or are under
guardianship. These eligible voters would be denied legal and legitimate access to
their right to vote.

Photo Identification Card for Registration and Voting

SB1375 would make obtaining a current, Idaho State photo Identification Card or
Driver’s License a requirement for voting. This could present significant barriers to
voting for eligible Idaho voters with disabilities for the following reasons: Persons
with a disability may have physical limitations that prevent them from obtaining a

driver’s license. Students with disabilities who do not drive but attend post-
secondary schools will no longer be allowed to use their officially issued Idaho

student identification card. Many individuals with disabilities and those who are
aging, especially those in rural areas, lack transportation resources. Public
transportation is not available or does not exist. Moreover, those on a limited or
fixed income, cannot afford to pay an Uber or Taxi to drive them to the DMV to
obtain a state ID. Some eligible voters with disabilities on Medicaid may have
access to non-medical transportation, however, this is a very limited service.
When combined with the direct care staff workforce shortage transportation
options are further limited.

Proof of Citizenship for Registration and Voting

SB1375 requires that the photo ID be current, show the voter’s current address,
and show proof of citizenship. While several options for photo identification are
included as acceptable, only a passport, concealed weapons permit, or some other
government documentation show proof of citizenship. An Idaho driver’s license or
identification card does not currently show citizenship. Even the Idaho “Star card”
is obtainable without proof of citizenship. Therefore, the proposed changes require
a passport, concealed weapons permit, or some other government documentation
that shows citizenship in order to vote. This is an enormous barrier to all Idaho
voters, especially eligible voters with a disability and older voters who are on fixed
incomes and cannot afford these documents. The current cost of obtaining a US
passport is at least $130.00, not including the cost of the photos and postage. The
cost of a concealed weapons permit is a minimum of $20.00, plus the cost of
firearms training, but this cost varies by county. While SB1375 provides for an
application of financial assistance to the DMV in order to obtain a photo ID, neither
a driver’s license nor state ID demonstrate proof of citizenship. There is no
application for financial assistance to obtain a passport or concealed weapons
permit. Furthermore, passports and concealed weapons permits are not readily
available and take a substantial amount of time to obtain. According to the US
Department of State website, obtaining a passport can take from between 8-13
weeks to obtain, or 5-9 weeks if an additional fee is paid for expedited service.
Concealed weapons permits require both firearm training and a background check.
If an individual does not have a readily available birth certificate, then this process
is prolonged even further, adding another 2-4 weeks. Some individuals may not
even have official birth certificates available due to records being destroyed and/or
never being sent to the Department of Health and Welfare, or have incorrect
information on their birth certificates that need to be corrected. These individuals
are forced to hire an attorney to pursue a court case against the department in
order to obtain a birth certificate that will allow them to obtain the necessary ID to
vote. This bill would require eligible disabled voters to apply for a passport or a
concealed weapons permit in order to vote, both of which are long processes and
financially challenging; both substantial barriers for eligible Idaho voters with
disabilities. This bill also includes an emergency clause which, if passed, would
bring this law into effect prior to the November election, potentially making it
impossible for many Idahoans to vote. Idaho has a long history of being respectful
of the voting rights of all Idahoans. This long history includes the freedom to prove
one’s identity by signing an affidavit if they are unable to provide a current photo
ID. Removing this option and adding such strict requirements places barriers that
will prevent eligible voting Idahoans from exercising their right to, the very core of
our republic.

SB1375 allows for additional documentation if the address shown on the voter ID
is not current, or if the ID is expired, but does not offer a way to cure a photo ID
that does not show proof of citizenship. Instead this bill requires that the voter
submit proof of citizenship within two (2) business days or their ballot is voided.
However, this bill provided no options for documentation to prove citizenship other
than a photo ID that shows citizenship status. Not only is the two-day window an
extremely difficult bar to voting, it would appear to be impossible for a voter to
prove citizenship within that timeframe unless they already possessed a passport
or concealed weapons permit. Even if the bill provided guidance on
documentation to cure the defect, requiring proof within two (2) business days is a
substantial barrier for eligible voters with disabilities. As noted above, many
Idahoans with disabilities have limited transportation options, compounded by the
direct care staff workforce shortage in Idaho, especially in rural counties. Should
proof of citizenship be available, scheduling an additional trip to the polling place
within two (2) days would place an egregious and unnecessary barrier on the
exercise of the right to vote. Lastly, curing defects after July 1, 2023 disappears
and eligible voters with disabilities will be forced to obtain either a passport or
concealed weapons permit.

Although proving one’s citizenship may sound straightforward, most citizens do
not have sufficient documentation readily at hand, and many face extreme
difficulty in obtaining the necessary documents. Moreover, there is no evidence of
a problem in Idaho of non-citizen voting, or of voter fraud. Several states have
passed laws requiring proof of citizenship to vote. These laws resulted in a
reduction of voters participating in the electoral process and these laws have been
subsequently overturned in court because the states could not show substantial
evidence of fraud that would justify the reduction in voting that occurred.

Proof of Residency for Registration and Voting

SB1375 creates identical strict requirements for voter registration as it does for
voting regarding proof of residency, citizenship and identity. These requirements
would force eligible Idaho voters with disabilities to obtain a passport, concealed
weapons permit, or some other government documentation in order to register to
vote. This creates the same barriers as discussed above for eligible Idaho voters
with disabilities to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Mandatory Vote in-person

SB1375 requires any eligible voter who effects their voter registration
electronically or by mail to vote in person at least once before they can request an
absentee ballot. This new requirement is especially burdensome for eligible Idaho
voters with disabilities. While the bill allows voters who are ill or physically
impaired to apply for an exception to this requirement, this does not remove the
barrier. The new requirement singles out Idaho voters who are older or who have
disabilities who live in facilities, or who are homebound by requiring an additional
application when applying for their first absentee ballot. In addition, this
exemption would not be available to all older Idahoans or those with a disability.
The exception is only available for those who, “by reason of illness or physical
incapacity, (are) prevented from voting in person at a polling place.” This bill does
not define “illness” or “physical incapacity”, nor does it give any guidance on what
it means to be “prevented from voting in person”. These terms are extremely
loose and arbitrary, and create barriers to voting for persons with a disability. This
language discriminates against Idahoans with a disability and older Idahoans who
do not wish to vote in person, or have any other reason to not vote in person that
does not meet the undefined language of “illness” or “physical incapacity”. This
provision would deny the right to vote for these Idahoans, many of who have paid
taxes their entire lives and because of the natural aging process are unable to
appear at a polling place in person.

Absentee Ballot Envelopes

SB1375 creates a new absentee ballot return envelope requirement that exposes
to the public sensitive personal information from Idaho voters and those who
assist them in delivering or mailing their ballots. The new requirements single out
eligible voting Idahoans with disabilities and older Idahoans who need to use the
absentee voting system or need assistance in delivering their absentee ballots.
Additionally, a person who is only assisting in mailing or delivering the ballot must
also meet the same requirements as the voter, i.e, a current photo ID that shows
their residence and citizenship, even though they themselves may not be voting.
This places an unreasonable burden on the voter with a disability to inquire if the
individual they have chosen to assist them has a passport or concealed weapons
permit. This could place the eligible voter with a disability in a position where they
are unable to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), Section 208 specifically allows for persons
with disabilities to be assisted by anyone they choose. Section 208 (52 US Code
§10508) states: “Any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of
blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a
person of the voter’s choice, other than the voter’s employer or agent of that
employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.” When Congress enacted the
VRA, they were concerned that if persons with a disability could not choose
someone that they trust to assist them with casting their ballot that they may
choose not to vote at all. This concern lead them to draft Section 208 to ensure
that voters with disabilities had the same freedom to vote enjoyed by all citizens.
The new requirements in SB1375 contradict the provisions in the VRA.

Moreover, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and
local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal
opportunity to vote. The ADA provisions apply to all aspects of voting, including
voter registration, site selection, and the casting of ballots, whether on Election
Day or during an early voting process. SB1375 contradicts the mandates under
Title II of the ADA to ensure that no qualified individual with a disability be
excluded from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any of its programs, services, or activities, solely on the basis
of the individual’s disability. The new requirements in SB1375 contradict the
provisions in Title II of the ADA.

Elimination of Drop Boxes

SB1375 requires that absentee ballots be mailed or personally delivered to the
county clerk. This change effectively eliminates the use of drop boxes. Idaho is a
rural state and many of its counties are geographically large. Drop boxes offer a
method for eligible voters to return their absentee ballots without having to travel
long distances to the county seat. During the 2020 election, drop boxes were used
in several counties in Idaho including Ada County, Elmore County, and Owyhee
County. These drop boxes were put into place by county clerks who sought to
increase access to voting for all Idahoans, including those with disabilities.
Residents of Melba were able to use a drop box for their ballots, and did not have
to drive the 17+ miles to Murphy. Likewise, residents of Kuna or Meridian could
use a drop box instead of making the 1+ hour round trip to Boise to drop off their

During election season, the US mail system is often delayed due to the increase in
absentee ballots and political ads. Since absentee ballots must be received by
election day, eligible voters may choose to drop off their ballots to guarantee a
timely delivery. As exemplified above, many individuals with disabilities and those
who are aging, especially those in rural areas, lack transportation resources, rural
counties, lack public transportation, and eligible voters with a disability who have
an available option to arrange or pay for transportation to deliver their absentee
ballot to the county seat, face the difficulty of scheduling timely transports, and
the unreliability of these transportation providers that this Legislature is well
aware of — cancelling at the last minute, arriving in an inaccessible vehicle, etc.
Thus, the elimination of drop boxes presents a significant barrier for these eligible
voters to participate in elections.

The presence of drop boxes in the 2020 election allowed eligible Idaho voters with
disabilities another option to exercise their vote without compromising the
integrity of the election. There are no reports of drop box tampering during the
2020 election in Idaho. Despite allegations of fraud in the 2020 election, the Idaho
Secretary of State’s office reported in a press release on October 6th, 2021 that
there was no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

The Idaho Human Rights Act prohibits the discrimination of individuals with a
disability, specifically by imposing eligibility criteria that screens out or tends to
screen out any class of individuals with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying
any goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of a
place of public accommodation, which would include access to all aspects of the
voting process. SB1375 conflicts with the Idaho Human Rights Act by tending to
screen out individuals with a disability from their right to vote by requiring
identification that persons with a disability are less likely to have, by requiring
additional applications for absentee ballots, by denying the ability to request an
absentee ballot, and by restricting who can assist them in mailing or delivering
their absentee ballot.

We urge you to consider the effects and barriers the SB1375 will have on eligible
voting Idahoans with disabilities. If you have any further questions, please do not
hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.


Joseph A. Earnest
Staff Attorney
DisAbility Rights Idaho

Amy Cunningham
Executive Director
DisAbility Rights Idaho

Click Here to Download a PDF Version of these Comments