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Idaho Senate Bill 1273 would authorize a statewide voters’ guide

Voting is one of the most important responsibilities and rights we have as citizens. It can be difficult at times, however, to find the needed information about those running for office who want to represent us. This is why several states authorize their Secretary of State to provide a statewide voters’ guide to help provide these important details. Idaho’s Secretary of State Phil McGrane is hoping that Senate Bill 1273 will soon provide his office with this authority.

“This legislation requires the Secretary of State’s Office to prepare a comprehensive voters’ guide for primary and general elections, to be distributed to every household in Idaho. Currently, the Secretary of State’s Office produces and distributes a voters’ pamphlet when a ballot contains a constitutional amendment pursuant to Idaho Code Section 67-453, or an initiative or referendum measure pursuant to Idaho Code Section 34-1812C. This legislation expands this resource by also including information about candidates for federal, state and county offices and other election information, including voter registration and voting requirements, important dates, and county clerk contact information.”

Here are the details about candidates that are required to be included in a voters’ guide by S1273:

  • "A statement not exceeding two hundred (200) words;

  • The candidate's campaign contact information; and

  • The candidate's photograph, which shall not be more than four (4) years old and shall be in a format the secretary of state determines suitable for reproduction in the guide."

The National Association of Secretaries of States (NASS) says that several states currently provide a voters’ guide including Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Oregon, and Washington.

Here is how the Alaska Secretary of State explains this resource:

“During a Primary and General election year the Division of Elections publishes two official pamphlets designed to help Alaskan voters make informed choices. Pamphlets are available in printed, digital, and audio formats; and made available to the public no later than 22 days prior to Election Day. Printed versions are mailed to every voter household and digital versions are posted to this page. Digital versions of the pamphlets are also available in select languages.”

A recent Boise State University poll found strong public support for Idaho to provide a voters’ guide.

Along with a traditional printed and online voters’ guide, another resource worth considering is a Video Voters’ Guide. This would allow voters to go to one place to see and hear candidates in their own words about why they are running for office. Here are examples from Washington state of the Video Voter’s Guide provided by TVW. Perhaps this type of resource is something that Idaho Reports would be interested in doing.

A voters’ guide usually provides basic demographic and background information about candidates, generally in their own words, to help voters have a standardized reference for learning more about those seeking office. Providing a statewide voter guide is not only popular with Idahoans but is also a best practice that all states should consider to help provide voters with the information they need to make informed decisions about those wishing to represent them.

Updated at 10 a.m. MST (2/15)

MSPC received this quote from Secretary McGrane on S1273:

“With a historic election on the horizon, it is imperative that Idaho voters have the necessary tools to make informed choices. It is time for Idaho to produce a comprehensive state voter guide that includes information on candidates. In an era where voters often know their choice for president but remain uncertain about down-ballot races and issues, a state voter guide becomes a crucial tool in fostering an informed electorate.”

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