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Home Is Where The Vote Is

With every vote, a cookie.

When residents of Kootenai School District’s tiny Precinct 4-B vote on a levy, they head to the neighbors’ place.

On Tuesday, the place to vote was Kirk and Melody Wight’s yellow double-wide on Hell’s Gulch Road.

“I’m just home, so I got roped into it,” chuckled Melody Wight. “It’s kind of nice, because some of the people you don’t see that often. You get to visit.”

She and election judge Marylee “Mike” Schaffner spent the morning turning the dining room table into an impromptu voting booth.

The first order of business was to swear each other in. “We swore we’d be good citizens and all this kind of stuff,” said Schaffner.

They set out voter lists, ballots and a bowl of chocolate-chip cookies baked for the occasion.

Two-year-old Samantha Wight helped out by coloring “pretend” ballots. “I vote ‘yes,”’ she confided.

Schaffner, the senior official, didn’t think the cookies would be allowed at a more buttoned-up polling place, but she figured they would be OK for Precinct 4-B.

“I guess you’re supposed to be real serious about this voting thing,” she said.

At noon, the polls opened.

“It’s not going to be too busy today, I think,” said Schaffner.

She was right. Two hours later, there still had been no signs of any voters. By 5:30 p.m., five people had voted.

“Pretty good,” Melody Wight opined, considering the size of Precinct 4-B’s voter pool.

“There are approximately 10 voters in that area,” said Kootenai Joint School District treasurer Betty Smeltzer.

The reason the district uses a home as a polling place, Smeltzer said, is that there are no nearby public buildings - no Grange halls, schools or fire stations. “It’s just a necessity,” she said. “They do everything everyone else does - they just do it in their living room.”

“Even in our county, federal, state levels, private homes are used as polling places in the rural areas,” said Penny Ysursa, administrative secretary for the secretary of state’s elections division. “It’s not that common, but if that’s the only place you have, that’s what you use.”