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Dispatches from Election Day in North Idaho

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 3, 2020

Clayton Leyde waited for an hour to cast his first vote on Tuesday morning.

While he didn’t want to reveal who he chose in the hotly contested presidential election, Leyde said it was worth his time in a long line that stretched around the outside of the Post Falls Public Library.

“I feel like this year’s a really important year,” the 18-year-old said. “There’s a lot of political tension.”

But that tension, no doubt in the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Americans this election season, wasn’t on display in Post Falls or Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday morning.

Doug and Connie Martin had been waiting in masks outside the Post Falls library for a half-hour to cast their first votes in Idaho, after moving from Washington in June.

They were less shy about who they would be backing: the Republican Party.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s the only choice,” Doug said.

While things appeared to be going well, if slowly, in Post Falls, he said he was concerned about issues cropping up in the electoral process around the country.

“They’re going to find ballots in the garbage somewhere, ballots that didn’t get counted,” Doug said.

“It’s already happening.”

But inside the library, Kim Cooper, the judge overseeing precincts 25 and 31, said all was going well.

She said a new system that allows people to cast their votes with tablets was speeding the process along, even though the need to social distance because of the COVID-19 pandemic inside the polling room meant fewer people could do so at once.

Cooper said people were lined up at 7 a.m., when polls open, and that people would be able to vote until 8 p.m. or later, if they make it inside the voting building by then.

“People, I just believe, want their voice heard,” Cooper said.

Connie and Derek Sovereign were among those waiting to be heard.

The husband and wife said they both voted third party in 2016 but are backing the incumbent this time around.

The Sovereigns said the media has inaccurately portrayed Trump’s time in office, failing to focus on issues like a recent bill that boosted protections for missing and murdered indigenous women and increased funding to combat human trafficking.

“There isn’t a lot of facts in the media,” Derek Sovereign said. “It’s just propaganda.”

While he said they aren’t big fans of Trump “character-wise,” Derek Sovereign said he believes Trump has done a good job bringing back manufacturing jobs and boosting the economy.

Outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Coeur d’Alene, Maranatha Owens said she, too, was backing Trump, though she emphasized she was “not voting for an individual but for the things that concern us.”

Among her concerns, she said, are “the rights of the unborn” and the threat of socialism.

“We’re very concerned about our country moving into a socialist model,” she said. “We want our children to grow up with the same freedoms we had.”

Her three daughters, ages 7, 11 and 14, stood with her as she spoke, helping to hand out Republican sample ballots to people coming to vote.

Owens said she felt it was important for her daughters to take part.

“We really feel like it’s important for our kids to understand the democratic process,” she said. “We want everyone to vote.”

While Owens said she and her daughters had received “a lot of positivity” while they handed out sample ballots, one person was “upset we had our children involved in this process.”

That, she said, was “sad” to see.

The line to vote at the Seventh-day Adventist Church was shorter than at the Post Falls library.

Dustin Crane, a middle school teacher, had been waiting about 15 minutes, he said.

Though he didn’t want to say who he was supporting, Crane did say it’s important to pick a side: “If you don’t vote, you don’t have no reason to complain.”

Angelica Jara said she didn’t have anything to complain about her candidate, Trump, as she left the polling site.

“He’s done everything he’s said he was going to do,” Jara said.

While she was pleased with the ease of voting in Coeur d’Alene, she was worried about the election going “off the rails in other cities and states.”

But on Tuesday afternoon, there was no sign of anything going off the rails in North Idaho.

At Pope St. Pius X Church and Hayden City Hall, lines were short or nonexistent.

At First Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, voters were able to walk right up and cast their ballots.

While the church is the busiest polling site in the city, according to Suellen Crettol, the precinct’s chief judge, the lack of lines wasn’t indicative of low turnout.

By 3:40 p.m., about 1,300 ballots had been cast in the precinct, out of about 21,500 in Bonner County.

For a county with just 31,280 voters, that’s 69% turnout and District Court Clerk Mike Rosedale, who is in charge of elections, said the county was on track for 85% to 90% turnout when it’s all said and done.

While only about 7,500 of the 21,500 were cast on Election Day, not only early votes had counted, in accordance with state law. But Rosedale and his colleagues were continuing the long process of scanning all those early ballots on Tuesday afternoon.

The scanners “scramble” the data included in the ballots, Rosedale said, and it will begin to be unscrambled at 8 p.m.

While no one will be allowed to get in line to vote after that time, anyone who is in line by then will be allowed a vote.

“You can be in line for 10 hours,” Rosedale said, “and you still get to vote.”

Back at the Post Falls library at 5:30 p.m., Mike Lasher had been waiting 30 minutes of so in a long line to cast his vote.

But that time included a series of rainstorms.

He said he was sticking it out despite the wait and the weather to support Trump.

The owner of a moving company, Lasher said his vote was about the economy.

“Business has never been better for me,” he said.

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