Idahoans are voting early. Here’s turnout so far, & a tip to skip lines in Boise

Rick Marino was ready to vote.

First, he found the Ada County’s mobile voting truck sitting outside of the Eagle Public Library. But its line was long. So, he said, he drove down to the county elections office on Benjamin Lane, where the parking lot was too full for him to park.

He drove back to Eagle — and waited an hour for his turn with a ballot.

“It’s a great concept,” Marino, of Boise, said about the mobile voting. “I don’t know if they were prepared for that many people though.”

Marino’s experience Wednesday isn’t necessarily typical for early voting this year.

But with one week of early voting done, and two weeks to go until Election Day, elections officials say it’s clear the high voter interest seen during the primaries is continuing this fall.

Idahoans this year will decide who takes open seats for governor, lieutenant governor and one of Idaho’s two U.S. House spots. Democrats are mounting a renewed challenge to lead Idaho’s Department of Education, a job that they narrowly lost in 2014. And two voter initiatives have also boosted interest — particularly a vote on expanding Medicaid.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney won’t release any sort of turnout prediction this fall. But he does expect turnout to be higher than in past general midterm elections, said Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst.

Between 56 and 61 percent of registered Idaho voters participated in the last few midterm elections. Presidential years tend to be higher; 76 percent of voters showed up for the 2016 general election. The highest midterm turnout in the last 40 years came in 1986, when 71 percent of voters elected Cecil Andrus to his third term as governor.

Ada County this fall expects a final voter turnout of 64 percent, possibly as high as 70 percent, Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane said Monday.

By Monday, 9,060 Ada residents had already voted in person. By Friday, the county had sent out 33,865 absentee ballots and had received 17,900 back.

“Turnout has been really high,” McGrane said. “Closer to presidential-like (voting) numbers.”

He attributed the increase to the open governor’s seat and the statewide ballot measures.

Even with its mobile voting truck, Ada County has faced wait times for early voting. McGrane said the mobile voting truck has a limited number of people it can host, so it has had the longest waits. He encouraged people to cast early ballots at Boise and Meridian city halls, where the process is generally faster.

The Benjamin Lane location has a different problem. McGrane noted it shares a lot with the county’s driver’s license office, which has been extremely busy due to technological issues with the state of Idaho’s driver’s licensing system.

For example, McGrane said, the Benjamin lot was full Monday morning, but there was no line at the elections office. The cars in the parking lot were mostly there for people seeking DMV services.

Canyon County

As of Monday morning, Canyon County already had 1,905 people cast early votes through its elections office. In addition, the county had sent out 5,306 absentee ballots and received 2,220 back, said county Elections Supervisor Lisa Power.

So far, no one coming into the office has had to wait more than 10 minutes to vote, Power said Monday. And, she said, the stream of voters has been steady.

“It’s hit or miss all day every day,” Power said about voting wait times. “We’ve had a very good turnout. It’s been fairly steady.”

Canyon County expects at least a 60 percent voter turnout this year, said Power. She said that’s a rough estimate and “wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeds that.”

Joe Decker, Canyon County spokesman, said officials are encouraging people to vote early in person if they can, rather than ask for absentee ballots. The last day to ask for an absentee ballot is Friday; the county is concerned that mail delivery in some parts of the Treasure Valley can take as long as 10 days, he said.

Where to vote

Early votes in Ada County can be cast at Meridian City Hall, at 33 E. Broadway Ave., or Boise City Hall, at 150 N. Capital Blvd., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, Mondays-Saturdays through Nov. 2. The Ada County Elections Office on Benjamin Lane is also open for early voting during those hours, but parking is limited.

The county’s mobile voting truck is scheduled to appear from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at such locations as Albertsons Stadium, Micron, Kuna City Hall and the Borah Post Office in Downtown Boise. A full schedule can be found at adacounty.id.gov/elections.

In-person early voting in Canyon County can be done from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Nov. 2 at its Election Office, 1102 E Chicago St. in Caldwell.

Election day is Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. that day.

Idaho allows same-day voter registration. To check if you’re registered, visit idahovotes.gov.

Who’s on your ballot? Visit the Idaho Statesman’s voter guide to hear from the candidates in their own words. Excerpts will also be available in the print Statesman Oct. 24.

For more information, visit the elections websites for Ada County or Canyon County, or call 208-287-6860 (Ada) or 208-454-7562 (Canyon).

This article includes reporting done in partnership with ProPublica’s Electionland project. Did you have trouble voting, or encounter other challenges with the process? Tell us about it here.
Related stories from Idaho Statesman