Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 1 on Sept. 1, ensuring there will be an in-person voting option available to Idaho residents regardless of any state of emergency, extreme emergency or disaster emergency. This bill was proposed in regard to mail-in voting due to COVID-19.
Phil McGrane, Ada County clerk, expressed the reasons for high voter turnout this election season, as well as mail-in and in-person voting options.
McGrane believes there is greater intensity and pent up energy around voting in November due to COVID-19 and the uncertainties this year has brought.
According to McGrane, in the 2016 primary election in Ada county, there were 35,363 people who voted, in which 2,467 of those votes were by absentee mail-in. In the most recent primary election in May, Ada county saw 96,055 voters participate in the election in which all were absentee mail-in.
There are normally 150 polling stations available for in-person voting and the Ada County elections office has currently secured 100 places, according to McGrane.
Ada county is taking advantage of larger spaces to ensure social distancing. McGrane said all workers will be required to wear masks and polling booths will be socially distanced. To ensure community safety, voters will be provided with golf pencils so people will not share writing utensils.
Voters will not be required to wear face masks, but poll volunteers will encourage people to wear one and will also provide masks to those who would like one.
“This is people’s opportunity to vote and we don’t want to deny someone the opportunity to vote simply because of the masks. We’re working closely with Central District Health to come up with the best practices that we can to keep everyone safe,” McGrane said.
McGrane urges those who have health concerns to request an absentee ballot due to its safety and convenience. McGrane is confident that Idaho will protect the integrity of votes in this election.
According to McGrane, Ada County has added additional ballot drop-off boxes around the community. Cameras have been put in place to maintain security and will be monitored 24/7. Each drop box also has a fire suppression system inside to keep ballots safe.
“We’re taking extra steps to reassure folks that no matter whether they choose to vote absentee, whether they choose to vote early or to vote in-person, they can have confidence in that process,” McGrane said.
McGrane encourages students to register to vote as soon as possible and participate in the election.
“This is a really important process and being a part of a presidential election is a huge thing. Hopefully, students will take advantage of the opportunity to vote,” McGrane said.
Charles Hunt, assistant professor of political science, urges the importance of voting for this election and encourages Idahoans to take advantage of all voting options. Hunt believes that any additional way for the public to vote will have an impact on voter turnout, and it is important to have in-person voting options available especially in rural communities.
“Having in-person voting locations is really important despite the risk. We need to make sure that everyone has the right to vote,” Hunt said.
Hunt understands there is a lot of skepticism about mail-in voting.
“Political science generally shows next to no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud or that people take advantage of the system,” Hunt said.
Hunt urges everyone to participate in politics and make a difference in the community.
“There are different ways you can participate in politics. You can contribute to a candidate you like, you can go out and protest, you can write a letter to a member of congress, you can run for office yourself,” Hunt said. “There are all kinds of things you can do, but all of the things I mentioned cost a lot of money and sometimes costs valuable time. Voting is the one thing that we can all do to make our voice heard.”
Ann Snelgrove, junior social science major, will experience her first time voting in a presidential election this season. Snelgrove is registered to vote in her home state of Nevada, and plans to vote by mail.
“[Mail-in voting] is really self-explanatory. It’s quite easy and actually allows me to look at all of the names of the candidates and search them as I’m filling out the voting card,” Snelgrove said. “There’s never really an easy time or place I can find the name of every single candidate and every single thing I’m voting on in my district, I can just look it up as I’m going.”
Snelgrove urges every state to come up with a safe voting strategy to ensure everyone gets the chance to vote without delay.
“I’m really hoping every state comes up with a method system that allows anyone and everyone to be able to easily vote and to get their ballots in the mail without any sort of suppression or delay,” Snelgrove said. “This is overall an important election and unprecedented times. It’s super important to me that everyone gets the chance to vote and that everyone does vote.”