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Absentee voting points toward heavy Election Day turnout

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | May 9, 2021 1:00 AM

If early numbers are any indication, May 18 is on pace to deliver another heavy election turnout.

“It really feels more like primary election-year numbers than odd-numbered election years,” Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon told The Press.

As of 2:07 p.m. Friday, less than two hours before the deadline, a total of 6,691 absentee ballots have been requested, with roughly 68 percent of those submitted online through the state’s request system.

“Good ol’ idahovotes.gov,” Brannon said.

For contrast, in May of 2019 — the last odd-year May election on the calendar — the county sent out 2,509 absentee ballots. As of Friday afternoon, 2,861 ballots have already been returned.

“We’ve got more returned this year than the total we sent out two years ago,” Brannon said.

This year’s May taxing district election features a race between six candidates for three seats on the Kootenai Hospital District’s board of trustees and for two available spots on the Community Library Network board.

The election will also feature a smattering of highway district, water district and sewer district races, as well as three questions regarding City of Hayden Lake budget increase, a Kootenai County Fire and Rescue bond and a Post Falls School District No. 273 supplemental levy.

With the deadline for requesting absentee ballots now passed, the Elections Office is focusing on sending out the last of the requested ballots, as well as receiving and securing filled-out absentees. Jennifer Locke, chief deputy clerk for the county, noted a common mistake that happens with absentee voters on Election Day.

“Many times, we’ll see people go to their polling places to turn in their ballots," Locke said. “You can’t turn in your absentee ballots there. You have to take them into the Elections Office.”

Voters who’ve requested their absentee ballots have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to return their absentee ballots to the Kootenai County Elections Office at 1808 N. Third St. in Coeur d’Alene. Brannon, in his customary fashion, stressed when those absentee ballots had to be received — not postmarked — at 8 p.m. on May 18, a time he emphasized with the clock on the wall.

“8 p.m. means 8 p.m.,” he said. “Not 8 p.m. and 20 seconds. It does not mean 8:05 p.m. It does not mean July 7.”

The Elections Office is also facilitating early voting at the Third Street Elections Office, which continues until this Friday, May 14, at 5 p.m. Those who miss Friday’s early voting deadline can still vote on Election Day at their polling locations. To date, 328 have participated in early voting.

“Make that 329,” Brannon said. “I voted.”

For reference, in May of 2019, a total of 295 had taken part in early voting.

“We’ve got another week to add to the number we’ve already beat,” Brannon said. “But if they can’t make that deadline, they can still vote on Election Day.”

Locke said the Elections Office has already organized between 320 and 325 poll workers for Election Day, but those wanting to help should contact the Elections Office.

“We’re always looking for more poll workers,” she said.