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Idaho may remove sex from voter registration

Bill is aimed at preventing issues in Idaho

Idaho Capitol Building

Credit: Contributed photo
Idaho Capitol Building

— A bill that would remove the requirement that Idaho voters specify sex on voter registration cards was approved for consideration by the House State Affairs Committee.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, asked to be recorded as no votes at the Jan. 22 committee.


Contributed photo

Idaho Capitol Building

Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst presented the proposal at the Jan. 22 committee, and said the requirement to include sex on voter registration cards has caused issues in other states and said the bill is aimed at preventing issues in Idaho. He said it doesn’t necessarily have use for his office, and he does not know of organizations who use it.

“There’s no reason for that to be on the card to identify the person. It has created some problems with society now, so we’d just like to have that removed from the registration card…,” Hurst said. “We don’t generate any voting statistics by gender from our office, and I don’t know anyone in the state that does that. So, I don’t see the need for anyone to identify by sex.”

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, worried about the impact on voter data, and asked “why would you just remove that valuable information.” She asked whether it would be useful to include a third category, like ‘other.’

Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, wondered how prevalent the issue is in Idaho, “I haven’t read about this in the news, here in the state of Idaho, that it has been a big issue.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, asked if the issue could be solved by using the term gender instead of sex. Hurst responded that “sex and gender are used interchangeably.”

According to political science professor at Boise State University, Jeff Lyons, “There’s a relatively high number of states that don’t ask for it. As well as, I know there’s a number of states that are moving to additional options, like non-binary.”

Lyons, who specializes in public opinion, said the data on sex or gender from voter registration often isn’t of use to researchers.

“To be honest, I don’t see any big downside for the research side of things, from a political science perspective. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any research that uses the state of gender that comes from the registration files,” he said.

Researchers often rely on data from surveys or polling data for gender or sex, Lyons said, but it may be of use to political parties and campaigns.

Idaho Democratic Party Communications Director Shelby Scott said in an interview, “We use that information to study our culture and to see what rates men and women turn out to vote. If we can see that we can try to improve our democracy and maybe take away those barriers for people who maybe can’t come out to vote.”

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, asked to be recorded as no votes.

It will now be considered at a public hearing before being voted on by the committee.

– Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.


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