The next time you go to vote, it might be a good idea to bring a utility bill or some other piece of governmental postal mail with your name and address on it. Just in case.
That’s because the Supreme Court recently ruled that a technique called “caging” is constitutional. In Ohio, people in the Secretary of State’s office sent postcards to voters who had missed an election. If they didn’t return those postcards, it was assumed they had moved and their voter registration was cancelled. So some voters got a big shock the next time they tried to vote.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see states — including Idaho — take advantage of this ruling to, as supporters describe it, “clean up the voter rolls.” Typically “caging” is used in areas where people are thought to move around a lot. So if you live in a neighborhood like that — for example, one with lots of students, poor people, or senior citizens — it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for a postcard.
Why Idaho in particular? Because the Secretary of State is Lawerence Denney.
In 2009, when Denney was an Idaho Legislator and Speaker of the House, he used caging to “prove” that there was voter fraud in Idaho. He and then Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes sent out 200 postcards to a single Idaho district, and used the fact that 30 of the postcards were returned as undeliverable to claim voter fraud.
Now that Denney is in the Secretary of State’s office, and after the Supreme Court’s ruling, he could not only send out these postcards, but he has the power to direct county clerks to remove people from the voter rolls if they don’t respond.
The solution may seem simple — just keep an eye out for postcards and respond to them. But if you don’t happen to receive it, or you don’t get it mailed back in time, your voter registration could be cancelled with no further notice to you, until you show up on voting day.
Idaho voters are better off than the ones in Ohio, because Idaho — at least for now — lets you register on Election Day. But to do that, you need a state-issued photo ID and a piece of governmental mail addressed to you at that address. And if you’re already standing in line at the polls, you may not have time to go home and find a piece of mail and get back again. Not to mention, if caging in your neighborhood is widespread, there may be a lot of people in line trying to re-register, especially since the Secretary of State’s office is also planning to implement a new election management system before the November election.
Another thing you can do before voting day is check your voting status online. You can do this by going to the website idahovotes.gov, clicking “voting,” then clicking “Am I registered to vote?” and entering your address. But to get reregistered before voting day, you need to check it and reregister before Oct. 12, because county clerks stop taking registrations then. At that point, you’d have to reregister at the polls. (And remember that if you’ve moved since the last time you voted, you need to reregister anyway.)
That’s why it would be a good idea to take a piece of your governmental mail to the polling place on Election Day. Just in case. As my dad used to say, you’d rather have it and not need it than not have it and need it. Especially when something as important as your vote is concerned.