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Officials: Voters should go online

Staff Writer | August 31, 2020 1:08 AM

County Clerk Jim Brannon said the best way voters can participate in their democracy this November is to go online.

“The more people we can get to go to and register online and request to vote by absentee, the better it is for everybody,” Brannon said. “We’re expecting a record absentee turnout this year, and this way, it doesn’t burden the staff.”

Brannon wasn’t kidding about a record vote this November. After an all-absentee primary election in May — an election that saw 33,800 absentee ballots — the Kootenai County Elections Office is already sitting at 30,000 absentee ballot requests, with 64 days before Election Day Nov. 3.

“We had 10,000 request a ballot on the last day (in the May Primary),” chief deputy clerk Jennifer Locke added. “We’re expecting a very big turnout for the general election.”

To aid with processing what is certain to be an unprecedented number of absentee ballots this year, the Idaho Legislature approved a few measures in special session to streamline the process.

One of the three bills passed by the Legislature gives Brannon and every other county clerk in Idaho the ability to open and begin processing absentee ballots early, rather than wait until Election Day for some of the legwork. While the votes won’t be counted, Brannon said just the process of opening envelopes will save his small staff some time.

“When you think about it,” he said, “we’re talking about a lot of envelopes. More than 33,000 in the primary. That takes a lot of work and a lot of man-hours. This will definitely help us.”

But Brannon and Locke both agreed that extra time is just one way the county can be aided this year.

“Go to,” he emphasized again, “register to vote there, and you can also request your absentee ballot. That is the best way you can do to make sure your voice gets heard.”

Citizens can visit that site any time between now and Oct. 23, but Brannon and Locke both agreed: the sooner, the better. Once requests have been verified, absentee ballots will likely be mailed out toward the end of September, well before the Oct. 3 deadline.

Counties originally had 45 days before Election Day to mail out absentee ballots, but legislation language from the special session gave election offices more time during an unprecedented pandemic to send ballots out. That 45-day limit still applies, however, to those serving overseas.


Requesting your ballot at isn’t the only way Brannon and Locke said locals can help. HB1, the bill that requires all election offices in Idaho to provide some form of in-person voting, means voters will still come to their typical polling places to have their voices heard. Those polling places, Locke said, will require volunteers.

“As soon as that bill passed, we started contacting our local poll workers,” Locke said. “We have a lot of new poll workers, and we’re still looking for poll workers. We’re still looking for people to come forward and be willing to help out in an all-day effort to help Kootenai County’s residents vote.”

Brannon said he appreciates anyone willing to come forward, but poll workers have to commit for a full day.

“We have some people who say, ‘I’m ready to come and help out for a few hours,’” he said. “And that’s great, and we respect their willingness to help out, but they’re not ready, because it’s more than a few hours. It’s really an all-day commitment.”

Polls are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Brannon urged anyone willing to help on Election Day to call the Kootenai County Election Office at (208) 446-1030.

“Right now, we don’t have an excess of labor, but we’ll be able to pull it off,” he said. “But it will require some training. We’ll do what we have to do to make it work.”

But making it work, Brannon continued, means going to to register and, if you so desire, request your absentee ballot.

“Go to,” Brannon repeated, probably not for the last time.