County braces for heavy voter turnout Orders extra ballots for final wave

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LOREN BENOIT/Press Carrie Phillips, Kootenai County elections manager, explains how ballots are counted with machines during an accuracy test Monday morning in preparation for today’s election. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Election central

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Absentee ballots can be dropped off at the County Elections Office, 1808 N. Third St., Coeur d'Alene, until 8 p.m. The office is not a poll, however, as early voting at the site ended on Friday. If voters need to know where their poll is, visit www.kcgov.us/elections and click on "polling place lookup" on the left side of the page. They can also call 208-446-1030 or email kcelections@kcgov.us with questions. If voters requested an absentee ballot and can't return it to the office today, they can still vote at their poll instead.

COEUR d'ALENE — When Scott Clampitt dropped off his absentee ballot at the Kootenai County Elections Office on Monday for today's mid-term General Election, he felt a different vibe.

Instead of a voter here and there walking in, the Coeur d'Alene man was one of several waiting in a line to turn in their absentee ballot.

"Even in Idaho there's more people voting," he said with a smile. "There are people who love Trump, but a lot of people don't. I voted Democrat wherever I could to try to get rid of him.

"One good thing about Trump is that he's getting people to vote."

While today's election doesn't feature the race for president, local voters turned out in presidential election-like numbers during the early voting period that ended Friday.

Anticipating that momentum to continue today, Kootenai County elections officials ordered about 7,000 extra ballots to be spread out over the 70 precincts. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Carrie Phillips, the county's elections manager, said intriguing federal, state and county races, two statewide propositions and three local community revenue proposals are helping fuel the heavy turnout and are reflective of the intense political interest across the country.

"There's a lot of energy across the whole nation," she said. "Everybody is talking about it."

A record 5,624 early Kootenai County voters turned out at the Elections office over 10 days compared to the 2,762 who did so over 14 days for the mid-term election in 2014. In 2016 during the presidential election, 8,508 early votes were cast.

Those numbers don’t include absentee ballots.

This year there were 12,522 absentee ballot requests, compared to 9,440 during the mid-term election in 2014 and 13,565 during the presidential election in 2016.

There is also explosive interest statewide.

The Secretary of State's Office on Monday morning announced 153,781 ballots had been received via absentee and early voting.

More than 168,000 absentee ballots had been been issued, and 14,825 were still outstanding. In the presidential election in 2016, 202,732 total absentee ballots were mailed and, in 2014, there were 98,281.

Voters can track their absentee ballot online at IdahoVotes.gov.

There were 846,433 voters registered in Idaho as of Nov. 1.

Phillips said in addition to more ballots, increased staffing levels compared to previous elections are planned for tonight.

She said she expects the early results will be posted at www.kcgov/elections around 9 p.m. but the final results won't likely be posted until early Wednesday morning due to the heavy turnout.

"It is very doubtful that we will have (final results) before midnight," she said.

The ballot includes a race for Raul Labrador's congressional House seat.

At the state level, contested races include governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, legislative seats in districts 2, 3 and 4 and a Supreme Court seat.

Kootenai County contested races will be for District 3 commissioner and clerk.

Statewide propositions include: Prop 1, which would authorize historical horse racing at certain locations where live or simulcast horse racing occurs, and Prop 2, which expands Medicaid.

Local revenue proposals include an Athol bond allowing up to $3.99 million for water system improvements, a Bayview Water and Sewer District bond allowing authority to borrow $2.65 million for improvements due to aging infrastructure, and a city of Hayden measure that would increase its base budget by $1.63 million for road and law enforcement needs.

If approved with a simple majority vote (50 percent, plus one), the Baview bond would increase rates from $24 per month for the first 5,000 gallons to up to $44.

In Athol, the water rate of $20 per month for up to 15,000 gallons of water could increase to as much as $55 per month with a simple majority vote.

After the ballots were printed, Hayden Mayor Steve Griffitts and the City Council encouraged voters in that city to vote against the proposal.

Griffitts said his support eroded when he began to see that some in the community misunderstood what was being sought. He also agreed that the request itself could be improved with help from a citizens task force.

The request, which needs 60 percent voter approval for passage, would cost the owner of a $275,000 home in Hayden an additional $222 annually if the measure were to pass.

The proposed funding includes $653,000 for four sheriff’s deputies, which would double the city’s law enforcement contingent; and $980,000 for road improvements.

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