Keith Russell Judd is serving time at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. He's scheduled for release in 2013.
Judd, 49, qualified for the ballot by submitting a notarized form and paying the required $1,000 fee, state Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said. As a result, Democratic voters will be able to choose between, and Judd.
"We got conned," Ysursa told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash.
It's Judd's second presidential bid in Idaho, the newspaper said Wednesday. In 2004 he declared as a write-in candidate for president, which requires only the submission of a declaration, and didn't get any votes.
No matter how many votes he gets this time, he won't get any national convention delegates. Idaho's delegates are chosen at party caucuses.
"The good thing is the Democratic presidential primary has absolutely no legal significance," Ysursa said.
Prison officials told the state elections office that Judd sent out about 14 checks to states seeking to get on the presidential election ballot and about half had been returned. He qualified as a write-in candidate in Kentucky, California, Indiana and Florida, but Idaho apparently is the only state where his name will appear on the ballot.
"It's a mockery of the system, and it's too bad that this kind of thing can happen," said Chuck Oxley, a state Democratic Party spokesman.
Party leaders are especially annoyed because Ysursa, a Republican, barred a Democratic state senate candidate, Matt Yost, from the ballot after determining that Yost was registered to vote in a different district.
"We have this really good candidate who can't get on the ballot, and this yahoo prisoner in Texas who coughs up a thousand bucks can," Oxley complained.
Judd paid his fee with a U.S. Treasury check drawn on his prison account, listing as a campaign office telephone number the city desk news tip line at the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper in Texas, and giving an Internal Revenue Service line in Ohio for the number of his campaign coordinator telephone, Ysursa said.
"We did some checking," Ysursa said. "There was nothing legally to keep him off."
A key reason Judd was able to make the ballot was a recent change in state election law that eliminated a requirement under which he would have had to get signatures from more than 3,000 Idaho citizens.
"We may rethink how we get on our presidential ballot next time," Ysursa said. "We'll take a look at it. We've got four years to think about it."