Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Voter turnout strong on Tuesday

Absentee voting down in Blaine County

Express Staff Writer

Poll workers instruct voters on how to cast their ballots Tuesday at the Community Campus in Hailey. Poll workers in Hailey said the stream of voters Tuesday afternoon was “steady,” while poll workers in Ketchum described voter turnout as “heavy.” Photo by Willy Cook

Blaine County officials said Tuesday that voter turnout and election-day voter registration were up this year compared to the 2008 presidential election. On the flip side, they reported a drop in absentee voting.

Roberta Kay, a Blaine County Elections Department constable at a polling location at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum—one of six locations across Blaine County—said voters started lining up “en-masse” at 7:30 a.m., half an hour before the polls opened.

“We haven’t had a moment’s break since eight o’ clock,” she said at 11 a.m.

Kay said the number of people voting at Hemingway Elementary this year was much higher than the number who voted there in 2008.

“We had a very poor turnout that year,” she said.

Ketchum resident Rian Mayer agreed that Hemingway Elementary seemed much busier this year.

“In years past, there’ve been like six people and I knew them all,” he said. “This is the busiest I’ve ever seen it.”

However, the lines were moving quickly. Mayer said he only had to wait for about 15 minutes.

Blaine County Clerk JoLynn Drage said she saw long lines at polling locations at the Community Campus in Hailey and at Bellevue Elementary School at about 8 a.m.

“The polls across the county are very busy,” she said at noon. “But I don’t know if they’re busier than ever before.”

Though voter turnout at the polls seems to be up this year, Drage said absentee voting in the county is down compared to 2008.

According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, 4,643 Blaine County voters cast either mail-out or in-person absentee ballots during the last presidential election. This year, 2,623 people—about 29 percent of registered voters—had already voted “absentee in-person,” casting their ballots before Election Day. Additionally, she said the county has received 927 mail-in ballots from absentee voters, but that number could go up to about 1,000—or nearly 8 percent of registered voters—before the day’s end.

Drage said she has no explanation as to why absentee voting is down this year.

“I can’t even begin to tell you why the voters do what they do,” she said.

Drage said the county’s Elections Department has no preference as to whether people vote ahead of time or on Election Day.

“As long as people vote, it doesn’t matter how,” she said.

Brennan Rego:




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