- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A seemingly simple housekeeping bill sailed through the Idaho House with no discussion or debate Tuesday. However, the bill seeks to rectify a glaring difference between the Idaho Constitution and state law outlining the requirements of who can run for legislative office.

Under the legislation, lawmakers would change the law to match the Idaho Constitution that says a person must be a registered voter within their legislative district for one year preceding the general election to qualify to run for a seat in the Idaho Legislature.

The law had previously stated that a person only had to live one year in their legislative district to run for state representative or senator. The bill does not change the exemption for candidates seeking to run for statewide office, who are not held to the same qualifications.

“The Secretary of State’s office goes by the constitution,” said Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher of Iona. “And obviously, we (the Legislature) want the law to follow the constitution.”

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office is pushing the change after years of turning away hopeful candidates who relied only on the statute rather than the constitution for election qualifications, said Chief Deputy Tim Hurst.

Hurst said the office has had to turn away hopeful candidates every year. In 2014, the office denied candidates from filing to run in the primary election.

Boise candidate Caleb Hansen, who was told he failed to qualify for a legislative seat in the 19th District, sued the office -representing himself- challenging former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa’s interpretation of a registered voter. A district judge dismissed the case last May but urged the state to resolve the difference between constitution and statute.

The case is now being appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court.

“It’s not just one party that has this problem, it’s both parties,” Hurst said, adding that he believed the proposed legislation absolves the need for the case to go in front of the state’s high court.

The bill must still pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature before the change can be made to the law.

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