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Now comes the wait

Staff Writer | May 23, 2020 1:02 AM

Local ballots going to lockup

Locked away in a cage in the depths of a Kootenai County office, the fates of Republican and Democratic nominees for state and local offices await.

“Until the day we begin counting votes,” chief deputy clerk Jennifer Locke said Friday, “all of the ballots are placed in a locked cage in a room with security cameras to ensure the highest security until Election Day.”

Election Day was scheduled for May 19, but the coronavirus interrupted a trip to polling places. With COVID-19 requiring social distancing, sanitizing of surfaces and the need for voters to wait in line in an age when people can’t really wait in a line, this year’s primary went all-absentee.

Kootenai County Elections Office to send out a record 42,200 ballots, a local record, elections officials confirmed.

The workload was compounded by extra mailers from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office reminding those who haven’t requested a ballot to do so.

“On peak mailout days, we still had anywhere from two to four people processing returns, as it can be arduous, and there have been multiple days where thousands of ballots were returned that needed to be received and processed,” Locke said.

Locke said each vote requires careful attention.

“When ballots are returned to the office, they are scanned into our voter registration system, which allows us to verify each and every signature,” she said. “As long as the ballots’ outer envelope is signed, then the signature will be compared and processed. When this is completed, the ballots go into a locked cage, where they will not be touched until the day the opening procedure begins.”

Locke said the precautions were nothing unusual.

“We want to assure the voters that we are verifying every signature and securing every ballot,” she said.

By June 2, all the outstanding ballots should be returned back to the Elections Office. As of Friday afternoon, 17,921 had been received back into county hands. Once June 2 hits, those locked-away ballots will be counted and tabulated, the results coming back that evening or in the days after.

“There’s a sense of relief, now that the ballots have all been mailed out,” Locke said. “However, a new mindset is being established as we begin preparing for the opening process.”