Election transparency bills introduced in Idaho committee

February 21, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Two bills focused on transparency in Idaho’s elections were introduced in a Senate committee on Monday.

The first, from Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, a Republican from Caldwell, would increase campaign finance reporting requirements for contributions and expenditures made in non-election years. Elections for local positions in Idaho are generally held on odd-numbered years, and statewide elections are held on even-numbered years.

Candidates for office at any level only have to report campaign contributions during their non-election year if they receive $1,000 or more, Lodge told the Senate State Affairs Committee. Under Lodge’s legislation, candidates would begin reporting campaign financial activity once they have spent or received $500, even in non-election years.

“This was brought for transparency because elections have become year-round now,” Lodge told the committee. “It’s for those that are collecting a lot of money and aren’t reporting anything, and then all of a sudden you see that $20 million has been placed in our campaigns and there’s no transparency on it.”

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Ken Burgess, a lobbyist for the Idaho Press Club, presented legislation that would make it clear that candidates’ contact phone numbers and email addresses are available under Idaho’s Public Records Act. When the state switched to an electronic filing system for candidates a few years ago, there were some exemptions to the public record act included in the state code, Burgess said.

“The Secretary of State has interpreted that to mean that there is some information that is not available,” Burgess said. As a result, nonpartisan civic education groups like the League of Women Voters, which puts together voter information pamphlets and hosts candidate forums, have had trouble reaching out to candidates to see if they would like to participate, he said.

Both bills were introduced on a voice vote.

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Boone is a member of the Idaho Press Club Board, but was not involved in the process of crafting or proposing the legislation presented by the club’s lobbyist.