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Idahoans should be able to vote in all races

Press-Tribune Editorial board
February 22, 2013
Idaho Press-Tribune

A bill proposed in the Idaho Legislature would restrict former Idahoans who live abroad indefinitely from voting in state or local elections, with an exemption for people in the military.

On the surface, it seems straightforward: If you're 18 and eligible to vote and don't qualify as an Idaho resident under Idaho Code, but you were a resident before you left the country, you can't vote in local or state elections, except for military personnel. If you're still legally a United States citizen, you could continue to vote in federal elections.

Who could object to that, right? After all, if someone doesn't live here, they can't possibly know the local issues, or be as vested in them, as much as someone who eats, works and sleeps here every day.

Unless, of course, you consider Randolph, who lives here and pays no attention to the news but votes for Candidate A for city council because Candidate A seems like a really nice fellow, and Uncle Charlie said he should vote for him.

And what about Ricky, who takes a job overseas for an indefinite period - could be six months, could be six years - but follows Idaho and Canyon County news diligently via the Internet? Who's a "better" voter, Randolph or Ricky?

The bill says anyone "who does not qualify as a resident of this state" shouldn't be allowed to vote absentee. Idaho Code says "in determining what is a principal or primary place of abode, the following . . . may be taken into account: business pursuits, employment, income sources, residence for income or other tax pursuits, residence of parents, spouse and children . . . property . . . and motor vehicle registration."

People can leave Idaho for various reasons, including those who journey overseas for missionary work. The fact they're gone temporarily - even if it's for years - doesn't mean they can't be quality, informed voters. Idaho Code should allow them to vote in all elections - including local and state ones - and elections offices must use proper discretion in ensuring nobody loses that right because they leave the country for a while.

If someone is legally eligible to vote in Idaho, leaves the country and becomes a citizen of his new home, he shouldn't be eligible to vote in any American election. But as long as he legally retains his U.S. citizenship and plans to stay in Idaho, he should be able to cast a ballot for city council and Idaho Legislature.

* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Maria Radovich, Mike Fuller, Kenton Lee, Rich Cartney, Megan Harrison and Kelly Gibbons.

Originally posted at

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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