Wednesday, October 22, 2008

County absentee voting is through the roof

Election official: More than 2,000 voters have requested absentee ballots


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Kevin Kniffen, a part-time employee at the Blaine County elections office this fall, shows longtime Hailey resident Moyra Riggen how to fill out an absentee ballot on Tuesday. Photo by David N. Seelig

Not to be outdone by voters elsewhere during this high-interest election season, Blaine County voters are showing up in droves to vote by absentee ballot.

Down at the county elections office in Hailey, officials are dealing with what looks to be a record-setting election season, county Clerk JoLynn Drage reported.

Based on results from the close of the business day on Monday, 1,993 voters had requested absentee ballots in person at the Old Blaine County Courthouse, Drage said Tuesday.

The 2004 election saw a record 2,806 voters request absentee ballots. Drage believes that number will be easily surpassed during this election season go-around. She said the county elections office is seeing between 90 and 100 people come in each day to vote by absentee.

"We're on track to break our record," she said. "I have no doubt we'll have 3,000 absentee ballots this year."

Blaine County voters have until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, to request an absentee ballot in person at the county elections office in Hailey. When requesting an absentee ballot in person, voters must also vote at the same time.

The numbers cited by Drage don't even take into account the number of absentee ballots requested by mail. County voters have until Wednesday, Oct. 29, to request a mail-in absentee ballot from the elections office.

To apply online for a mail-in absentee ballot, go to the Blaine County Web site at www.co.blaine.id.us/ and click on the "Elections" tab.

Like the rest of the nation this year, Blaine County is also witnessing a spike in the number of newly registered voters. On Oct. 13, 2004, 11,221 people were registered to vote in the county. As of Tuesday, that number had grown to 12,458.

The number of registered voters has even shown a significant increase in the past month. As of Sept. 8, the county elections office was reporting just 11,837 registered voters.

Though the deadline to register to vote on the day of the general election has already passed, would-be voters who haven't registered still have options. That's because Idaho allows same-day registration at the polls. Proof of residency—such as a gas bill with the applicant's name on it—as well as a driver's license or other official identification card is required to register.

Though Drage thinks the high level of interest this election season is likely due to the presidential election, she is curious about the impact the turnout will have on local races and ballot initiatives. She said years like these, though challenging for election officials, are also fun.

"I love them, but they are a nightmare," she said.

In addition to its normal elections staff—Drage plus one full-time staffer—the county has hired someone part-time to help out this election season.




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