BOISE -- With less than three weeks until the primary on Tuesday, May 15, voter confusion around Idaho is mounting. Ada County election officials say they're worried about a number of things because of changes over the last year.
"The primary election is going to be a very complicated one, so we've been preparing for this really since October," Ada County Clerk of District Court Chris Rich said. "And the closer and closer it gets, it's just turning out it's going to be a very difficult election to administer, and I think a challenge for voters when they go to the polls."
Redistricting changes voting locations
State redistricting moved the congressional boundary, changed many state legislative districts and many precincts have completely changed.
"You can't rely on the polling place you went to last election, just a couple months ago, it could very well be different for this election," Rich said.
To find your polling place (statewide), click here.
Pick your party, pick your ballot
The Republican party now has a closed primary, which has changed how voters will get a ballot and cast a vote. When you arrive at your polling location, you will need to select a party affiliation and choose a ballot type. Your choices (but not your actual vote) will be public record.
Your choices for party are: Constitution, Democrat, Libertarian, Republican, or Unaffiliated.
If you choose Republican, you can choose any ballot (Republican, Democrat, or non-partisan). If you choose any other of the four party choices, you may only choose the Democrat or non-partisan ballots.
Republican and Democrat ballots have U.S. candidates, legislative offices, county offices, precinct offices, and judicial candidates. Non-partisan ballots only have judicial candidates on the ballot. Once you receive a ballot from a poll worker, you cannot exchange for a different type.
"The big thing for the voter at the poll is if you're a Republican or a Democrat, and you want a republican or democrat ballot, it's going to be really easy for you. If you feel you're independent and unaffiliated, and you want a non-partisan ballot, I think that's going to be the challenge there," Rich said. "Because the non-partisan ballot only has three candidates on it, and they're judges and unopposed. So you won't have the option to vote for United States Congress, your legislative candidates, your county races."
To see a list of candidates (statewide), click here.
'Note where to vote' and 'Your party determines your ballot'
Ada County has spent thousands of dollars on education materials to help voters before and during the primary. Every registered voter (around 200,000 in Ada County) will get a mail out that shows where to vote, and what district you are now in, if you've registered for a party yet.
It also reminds you to bring a photo I.D. and think about what party you will register with.
On election day, you will see more hand-outs and posters to help guide what information you need and what the ballot choices mean.
"We don't' want to have folks not being able to vote the way they want," Rich said.
For Ada County voter information, click here.
A very expensive primary election
Rich estimates this election will cost around $300,000, which would be high for a primary election. General elections cost much more; for example, the 2008 general election cost $550,000.
The costs are increased for this primary election for several reasons. Changing mail-out voter notification cards to larger cards with more information cost an additional $10,000-$12,000. Other added printed educational materials (like signs explaining choices at the polls) cost around $8,000. Adding 145 extra poll workers to help voters will cost $18,000.
Usually, Ada County orders ballots to cover a projected roughly 20% voter turn-out (about 40,000 ballots). But this year, there are at least three ballot choices at each precinct and Rich doesn't know how people will register.
Rich is ordering ballots as though 70% will show up because of that unknown. Ordering more than three times as many ballots will likely end up costing around $30,000 extra (this year's estimate for printing 140,000 ballots is $45,000-$50,000)