For most Ada County voters, the upcoming election will be a bit of a brave new world.
New voting systems and methods have been in place for the past two elections — this year’s March and May primaries. But because most voters turn out only in presidential years, “a vast majority of voters have not seen the new equipment,” said Deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane.
Worried that the new drill might require new skills and generally bog things down? Fear not.
Here’s how to speed yourself through Election Day balloting, or better yet, how to skip the ballot box altogether by voting other ways.
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1. Vote by mail
You may request to vote by mail through the close of business on Friday, Oct. 28. The cutoff used to be the Wednesday before the election, but Postal Service cuts forced a change this year.
In the worst-case example, a request sent by physical mail from Rupert actually travels through Salt Lake City, coming and going. The absentee request form is available online and can emailed back.
2. Vote early
Ada County has four early voting centers that opened for business Monday. You can vote early on weekdays through Friday, Nov 4.
This year the county also has a mobile voting truck making the rounds to select locations through Nov. 4.
By analyzing voter registration rolls, the county has situated its early voting centers so that nearly 95 percent of all county voters live within 4 miles of one. Only residents of Hidden Springs and extreme south-central Boise live farther away.
The county also has worked it out so that voters of all parties are all roughly the same average distance from a center. Democrats are just slightly closer on average than Republicans, by two-tenths of a mile.
It’s the first year for the mobile voting truck, which on Monday handled 200 voters. But other early voting is way up this year compared to the last presidential race. In 2012, 800 people cast ballots on the first day of early voting. This year, the number was 2,100, and nearly 19,000 have already requested to vote by mail.
That puts the county about one-third toward its goal of 60,000 people voting before Election Day or without going to the polls. That total is 30 percent of the 200,000 the county expects, about a 75 percent turnout.
3. Pick the right time to vote.
The new computerized voting system delivers exacting detail on the ebb and flow of voters on Election Day, with surprising results. The data are literally down to the second.
“We’ve spent a lot of time researching lines,” McGrane said. “We even distribute our supplies in a way that handles those lines.”
It’s long been an article of faith among poll watchers that there are three heavy times for voting throughout Election Day: morning, lunchtime and after work. Actually, according to results tracked over the past two elections, the only consistently and exceptionally busy time is right after the regular workday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Morning is relatively light. Noon is the third-lightest hour of the day; 9 a.m. is the second-lightest.
The emptiest hour, if you can make it? Vote at 3 p.m.
4. Voting in person Nov. 8? Bring your documents.
Bring your photo ID to the polls if you don’t want to spend time filling out an affidavit affirming who you are. Once you’ve filled in your two-page ballot, Ada County has calculated the average time it takes for you to put it through the scanner: 24 seconds.
5. Registering to vote on Election Day? Same rules apply.
Bring your documents, which must include valid photo ID (state-issued, tribal card, passport or student ID) and proof of residency (examples are bank statement, vehicle registration, utility bill). Besides being 18 years old on Election Day and a U.S. citizen, you must have lived at your current address for at least 30 days and provide either a state ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Felons who have completed the terms of their sentences are eligible to vote.
▪ Nearly 11,600 since Sept. 1, ages 17 to 101.
▪ 57 percent are women.
▪ 47 percent are independents, 28 percent Republicans and 24 percent Democrats.
▪ 36 percent are 18 to 34 years old.
▪ New registrations are biggest in fastest-growing parts of the metro area, including Meridian, Harris Ranch and Hidden Springs.
Forget the conspiracy theories
Worried about a rigged election? Voter fraud? Don’t.
“It would be very difficult to rig an election in Idaho,” said Republican Secretary of State Lawerence Denney. “Each county essentially runs their own election, so there would be 44 different elections, and really each precinct is kind of independent as well.”
And with more than 900 precincts statewide, “There would have to be a lot of collusion and a lot of people with their eyes shut for any rigging to happen.”
As for voter fraud, Idaho voters must show picture ID at the polls to vote or sign an affidavit “saying that you are who you say you are,” Denney noted.
“I won’t say that voter fraud is nonexistent, but it’s very small,” he said. “A lot of times what we think is voter fraud is more ignorance of what’s going on. Most people are not trying to vote twice or trying to vote for dead people. And we have a system that really catches that pretty quickly.”
The incendiary language coming from Donald Trump about rigging “does cause us concern,” Denney said. “The confidence of the people in the voting system is very, very important.”
“I don’t get many calls, but I do get a few that are concerned about voter fraud. But I have yet to have anyone give me any solid concrete evidence of voter fraud. If there’s something, certainly we’re willing to try and check it out and see if we can find something, and if we can, we’ll prosecute. But so far I don’t think anything has been brought to us.”
ACHD candidate forums Wednesday, Oct. 27
Voters have two chances to see the candidates for the Ada County Highway District Commission.
District 2 candidates Rebecca Arnold and David Eberle and District 5 candidates Sara Baker, Rick Just and Mike Tracy will appear at a Boise Metro Chamber forum at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the chamber’s offices, 250 S. 5th St.
The ACHD candidates will appear along with Ada County Board of Commissioners candidates Rick Visser and TJ Thomson at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the Boise Public Library Auditorium, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. That forum is sponsored by the League of Women Voters.