RE: HB693, Prohibition of Drop Boxes
DisAbility Rights Idaho is the designated Protection and Advocacy system for the
State of Idaho. As such, DRI advocates for and educates on the rights of
Idahoans with Disabilities. We have reviewed the proposed bill HB693; a bill
which would prohibit drop boxes for the collection of absentee ballots. We would
like to take this opportunity to address the effects changes in this bill would have
on the lives of eligible Idaho voters who have disabilities and require assistance in
completing their fundamental right to vote.
HB693 prohibits the use of drop boxes or similar drop off locations for the
collection of absentee ballots.
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, and those who have limited access to transportation. These eligible
voters would be denied their freedoms by exercising their right to vote.
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 ballot.
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 county seat to hand deliver their ballot. 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.
Thus, the elimination of drop boxes presents a significant barrier for these eligible
voters to participate in elections.
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, should an eligible voter with a disability
have an available option to arrange or pay for transportation to deliver their
absentee ballot to the county seat, this Legislature is well aware of past
unreliability of these transportation providers – difficulty scheduling timely
transports, cancelling at the last minute, arriving in an inaccessible vehicle.
Moreover, without a clear definition of the term “drop box”. Eligible Idaho voters
with disabilities may experience confusion since every post office has drop boxes
for mail to be dropped off outside of work hours. Further, rural communities often
do not have a staffed post office, but only drop boxes. Finally, some County Clerk
offices have after-hours drop boxes on the building itself. Without a definition,
eligible voters with disabilities experience another barrier to freely and confidently
exercise their right to vote.
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.
This HB693 contains an emergency clause which would potentially enact this law
as soon as it is passed. Eligible voting Idahoans with a disability who relied on a
drop box in the 2020 election to effectuate their vote may be denied their vote in
2022 if this bill is enacted prior to the election.
Idaho has a long history of being respectful of the voting rights of all Idahoans.
Idahoans have the freedom to vote in person prior to election day, to request an
absentee ballot for any reason, to submit their absentee ballot by mail, or to drop
off their absentee ballot at the county election office or at areas and drop boxes
designated for that purpose. The use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots is
consistent with this history and highlights the integrity of our elections in Idaho.
We urge you to consider the effects and barriers the proposed changes in HB693
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
DisAbility Rights Idaho
DisAbility Rights Idaho