Idaho’s primary election will be held Tuesday, but for many people looking to get ahead of long lines, early voting was the way to go. Friday was the last day to cast ballots prior to Election Day, with polls closing at 5 p.m.
On Tuesday, polls will be open until 8 p.m. Mountain time in Southwest Idaho. All of the statewide offices are on the ballot, two congressional seats feature competition and redistricting brought about several closely watched legislative races.
Battles in the Republican primary have pitted many far-right candidates against incumbents and mainstream conservatives, and several races have brought in a lot of money for TV spots, flyers, social media posts and other forms of advertising.
Early voter turnout in Ada, Canyon
It’s looking to be a historically high turnout year for all of the early voting in Ada County, according to the clerk’s office.
Fewer than 3,000 people voted absentee in each of the four primary elections from 2010 to 2016, but that number increased in both 2018 and 2020, which saw an unusual all-mail primary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of 25,304 absentee ballots issued this year in Ada County, 12,176 had been returned as of Thursday night, the clerk’s office said. In 2018, the most recent midterm primary, 8,084 absentee ballots were issued and 6,595 were returned.
In-person early voting for this election has seen 6,791 ballots cast as of Thursday, compared to 7,008 in 2018.
“Absentee voting is definitely up more than usual and up from what we projected,” Chelsea Carattini, communications specialist with the Ada County Clerk’s Office, said in a phone interview Thursday. “And then early voting is just about what we expected to see.”
More than 72% of ballots cast in Ada County so far have been from registered Republicans, she said.
“I think it’s going to be quite a robust election this year, primarily because of all the competition that’s come on,” Ada County Commissioner Rod Beck told the Idaho Statesman. “What drives voter turnout is the number of candidates and the excitement of the candidates.”
Beck does not have a primary opponent but will face off against Democrat Stan Ridgeway in the general election in November.
In Canyon County, Clerk Chris Yamamoto said early turnout has been lower than he expected, with 6,211 of its 109,327 registered voters casting ballots as of Thursday afternoon. A total of 2,674 people had voted early at in-person polls. Among absentee voters, 3,537 of the 7,266 requested ballots had been returned, 76% of which were from registered Republicans, according to Yamamoto.
More voters, more poll workers
Voter registration is up in Ada County, even from six months ago. The state’s most populous county has more than 297,410 people registered to vote in this election, compared to 294,227 in November.
That number is way up from the last midterm primary. A total of 232,473 were registered in Ada County in May 2018.
“The biggest change from the last election is redistricting,” Carattini said. “We have a lot of new precincts that we’ve added across the valley and that mirrors some of the growth we’ve seen.”
Ada County added 46 precincts following redistricting, bringing the county’s total to 197. To account for that, Ada County made a push this year to recruit more poll workers, Carattini said, and about 1,150 people have volunteered, up roughly 300 since last year.
About 200 volunteers are expected to work the Canyon County polls this election, according to Yamamoto.
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