The following Op-Ed was submitted by Joseph Gish. Note: Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Idaho Dispatch.
Dear Secretary of State Lawerence Denny,
Why is your office engaging in statewide obstruction of a citizen’s election integrity effort? In response to a Public Records Requests (PRR) I submitted to my county in an effort to ensure deceased voter are removed from the voter rolls, on August 24th 2021 your office emailed every County Clerk, Election Director, and election staff member in the state labelling my request “suspicious” and cautioned them to be careful responding to Public Records Requests for data related to voter rolls. In the email your office asserted “death lists are not public records” and that “we should only be giving lists of Registered Voters (ie: Active Voters) according to code 34-437.” (I have attached a copy of your email below).
What is your office hiding from the citizens of Idaho? The assertions made in the attached email are very disturbing coming from the state office in charge of ensuring the integrity of Idaho elections.
On August 15th, 2021 I submitted the following Public Record Request to Nez Perce County:
“electronic copies of all monthly State Board of Health and Welfare Listings of death as supplied to the County Clerk of Nez Perce County by the Secretary of State for months: July 2019 to July 2021.”
This PRR was rejected on Aug 25th, 2021 (one day after your statewide email) with the county asserting that the records were exempt from disclosure per Idaho Statute 74-106(4)(e) which states: (4)“Records of a personal nature as follows”(e)”vital statistics records”. The Nez Perce County Clerk, Patty Weeks, was no doubt coordinating with the Secretary of State’s office as the determination to reject my PRR was being made.
Secretary of State Denny, what about my PRR was “suspicious” and what motive do you think I have other than ensuring the accuracy of my county’s voter roll? Why did your office claim my PRR was brought to you by multiple counties when I only submitted my request to my county of residence, Nez Perce County? Why did your office misrepresent Idaho Statute 34-437 by stating it only allows the release of lists of active voters when it clearly does not state this?
Idaho Statute specifically empowers Idaho voters to challenge voter registrations. It requires the Idaho Department of Public Health and the Secretary of State’s office to supply Idaho counties with deceased voter lists monthly. It requires the County Clerks to cancel these registrations and retain this correspondence for 2 years.
Idaho Statue 34-431 specifically grants Idaho voters a role in maintaining accurate voter registrations by allowing them to challenge persons on the voter rolls:
“At the time of any election, any registered elector may challenge the entry of an elector’s name as it appears in the election register. Such a challenge will be noted in the remarks column following the elector’s name stating the reason, such as “died,” “moved,” or “incorrect address.”
Idaho Statute 34-433 also requires monthly cancelling of deceased voters from the rolls:
“The state board of health [and welfare] shall, on or about the 25th day of each month, furnish to the secretary of state a listing showing the name, age, county of residence and residence address of each Idaho resident who has died during the preceding month”
This statue also requires that:
“The secretary of state shall sort this list by county and furnish a copy of same to each county clerk.”…”Each county clerk shall immediately cancel all registrations of individuals reported as deceased”…
Idaho Statue 34-434 requires retention of these records by each county clerk for two years:
“Copies of all notices and other correspondence issued pursuant to the directives contained in sections 67 and 68 of this act [34-432, 34-433, Idaho Code,] shall be retained by the county clerk for a period of two (2) years from date of mailing.”
Secretary of State Denny, it is clear that Idaho Statute intends and explicitly empowers Idaho voters to help maintain accurate voter rolls including the removal of deceased voters. The Idaho Department of Public Health reports that your office distributes to the county clerks are paid for by Idaho taxpayers and is clearly public record that must be retained for 2 years by each county clerk. If these correspondence are not intended for use by the public, what reason would state statute require them to be retained for 2 years? The email sent from your office clearly obstructs citizens from obtaining information they need to ensure accuracy of the voter rolls and is a violation of what is clearly intended by State Statute.
How do other states handle deceased voter list? In Kitsap County, Washington citizens request this list frequently and use it to ensure the deceased are removed from the voter rolls. (I have a copy of one of these lists I can supply upon request).
Your assertion that these records fall under Idaho Statute 74-106(4)(e) ”vital statistics records” frankly looks like an abuse of Idaho’s Transparent and Ethical government laws.
Secretary of State Denny, please revisit the email your office sent to election officials statewide. It would be greatly appreciated if you would consider what I have referenced in Idaho State Statute and send a follow-up email to the same statewide list of election officials and staff stating that the deceased voter reports sent to County Clerks are indeed public record. I would also make it clear that your office encourages Idaho voters to do their part in helping keep Idaho voter rolls up to date and accurate.
Joseph Gish – Nez Perce County Idaho
Tags: Election Integrity, Joseph Gish, Lawrence Denney, Public Records Request, Voter Roles