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Democrats showed up to vote Tuesday - and 'overwhelmed' Ada County

'Now that we got the change, we got to put people in there to support him.'

Reporter Katy Moeller talks with Jo Crandall, a 79-year-old resident of Eagle, who explains her gubernatorial vote in the Idaho primaries.
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Reporter Katy Moeller talks with Jo Crandall, a 79-year-old resident of Eagle, who explains her gubernatorial vote in the Idaho primaries.

Democratic interest in Tuesday's primary was expected to be high. But turnout still caught Ada County officials by surprise, and left them scrambling to supply enough ballots.

"I am super curious to see what actual turnout was for the Democratic Party, because we were certainly overwhelmed by it today," Ada Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane said around 9:15 p.m. Everyone who showed up did get to vote, he said, unless they chose to leave on their own.

At the end of the night, Ada County reported a 34 percent voter turnout, with 47,809 ballots cast in the GOP primary and 29,844 cast by Democrats. That's roughly 20,000 more votes in each primary than Ada residents cast in 2014.

Voter turnout for primaries in Ada County has been trending downward since 1980, McGrane said. It is typically 25 to 30 percent.

A competitive Democratic primary for governor and other high-interest races were expected to make this one of the more notable Idaho primaries in recent memory.

After polls closed at 8 p.m., the Idaho Democratic Party asked a judge to extend voting at two Boise precincts — 1809, off of Pennsylvania Street and East Boise, and 1911, near State Street and Whitewater Avenue — over worries some people left without voting amid long lines. The judge denied that request, citing "a lack of sworn evidence," party communications director Shelby Scott said.

By about 5 p.m. some precincts had already gone through more than half of their ballots, McGrane said earlier. "Turnout in some precincts is double projections," he said.

As late as 7 p.m., Ada County was encouraging voters to stay patient and wait in line as they delivered extra ballots to many polling locations that were running short.

McGrane said the county ordered almost 30,000 Democratic primary ballots, "which is almost three times the last primary turnout."

Early this morning one Meridian polling site didn't have any ballots for those wanting to vote in the Democratic primary. McGrane said ballots were brought to the site within the hour.

"They are now fully stocked," he said earlier.

The snafu happened at the Treasure Valley Baptist Church. McGrane said the ballot printer placed a Democratic cover sheet on top of a stack of nonpartisan ballots, so poll workers thought they had all the ballots. McGrane said a couple of the voters wanting those waited for the ballots to be delivered.

Canyon County was seeing similar numbers. According to county spokesman Joe Decker, most precincts had seen higher-than-average turnout.

"Early voting and absentee is up a little over 400 ballots compared to the 2014 primary," Decker said.

As of 6 p.m., Decker said the county had to issue 25 more Democratic ballots to three polling locations that were running short. There is a higher Democratic turnout than expected. Decker said the polls didn't run out, but the county was being cautious.

Canyon County election authorities also got complaints from at least 10 voters about not being able to vote on the $165 million Nampa sewer bond.

Specifically, those voters use the Nampa sewer system, but may live outside of city limits. City spokeswoman Amy Bowman confirmed that according to Idaho law, city issues are only voted on by residents within city limits.

Bowman said the city has about 27,000 customers that use the sewer. Nampa has 277 customers with outside city water rates, but only 54 are also being charged for sewer, she said. Meaning only 54 sewer users couldn't vote on the bond.

However, those 54 customers also can't vote in city elections, such as mayoral or council elections, because they are outside city limits.

The Nampa City Council pitched the bond to pay for upgrades to the wastewater system. If the bond doesn't pass, the city says, residents will be charged higher sewer fees to cover the work.

Early voting numbers in the county this spring were way up: 8,861 people voted early, a 300 percent increase over 2014, McGrane said. He said that's not necessarily an indication of interest or overall turnout for this election because the number of sites for early voting was increased from one site to four, including the county's mobile unit (parked in 10 places).

There were 8,124 absentee ballots issued in Ada County for this primary. The rate of return, as of Monday, was a little over 58 percent.

Voters were lined up outside the Cathedral of the Rockies — one of the Boise polling sites — before the polls opened at 8 a.m., said Debbie Toy, a retired principal who was a poll worker there. She thought turnout was good for a primary.

Boisean Madison Holland, 22, is a Democrat, but she said she registered to vote in the Republican primary.

"Brad Little was someone I thought is the most moderate of all of the Republican candidates," she said.

Tom Frey, 68, a registered Democrat, cast his vote at a polling site set up in the gymnasium of the Longfellow Elementary School. He said he was torn between the two governor candidates. He went with A.J. Balukoff, but spoke highly of Paulette Jordan.

"I liked them both, that's the problem," Frey said.

Voters at the polls came with strong opinions.

Star retirees Steve Rohrig, 69, and wife, Robin, 62, voted at the Star Fire Department. Both are Trump-supporting Republicans.

The Rohrigs cast votes for Raúl Labrador for governor.

“He was the least evil of all of them,” quipped Steve Rohrig.

Cynthia Sewell and Michael Katz contributed.
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