Friday, October 31, 2008

Official: absentee voting 'crazy'

Between 250 and 300 voters are placing their votes by absentee ballot each day

Express Staff Writer

Taking advantage of his ability to vote in person by absentee ballot early last week, Bellevue Marshall Ron Taylor casts his vote at the Old Blaine County Courthouse. Photo by David N. Seelig

The flood of voters rushing to make their voices heard in Blaine County this election season hasn't slowed.

If anything, the surge of absentee voting is picking up, Blaine County Clerk JoLynn Drage said Tuesday. She expects that as many as 30 to 35 percent of county voters will place their votes this year by absentee.

Reporting on voting levels yesterday morning, just minutes before the Blaine County elections office was set to open, Drage said 3,556 voters in the county had already requested absentee ballots. That includes an astounding 2,312 voters who have requested absentee ballots in person at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in downtown Hailey.

County voters requesting an absentee ballot in person must also cast their vote at the same time.

The absentee voter totals—which do not include those placed on Tuesday—have already surpassed those from the 2004 election, which saw 2,806 voters request absentee ballots. That figure, which represented the all-time high until this high-interest election season, included both in-person and mail-in absentee voting requests.

"We're smoking it," Drage said. "We're going to blow that number way out of the water."

In recent days, the number of county voters arriving at the Old Blaine County Courthouse to request absentee ballots has climbed to as many as 250 to 300 per day, a pace Drage described as "crazy."

She said in all her years as an election official, she's never seen such a high level of interest. In addition to hiring a temporary elections official, Drage has had to pull several employees from the records office to help out with the torrent of voters.

"It's been all hands on deck," she said.

The deadline to request a mail-in absentee ballot from the elections office was Wednesday, Oct. 29, meaning that county voters wishing to vote by absentee ballot must now do so in person. 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.

A spike in new voter registrations in Blaine County also seems to be continuing. On Oct. 13, 2004, there were 11,221 registered voters in the county, Drage reports. As of Tuesday, that number had swelled to 12,521.

Though the deadline to register to vote on the day of the general election has already passed, unregistered would-be voters 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 to vote.

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