BOISE, Idaho — With less than 100 days until the November general election, anticipation is building across the nation and here at home, especially considering it's a presidential election and there are very serious concerns about poll safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this year, Idaho's May primary was a real challenge for county clerks across the state because the election was done completely through the mail.
With a little more than three months until the election, is Idaho prepared?
A popular question is, will in-person polls be open in November, or will Idahoans again vote through the mail?
"At this point, polls are intended to be open," said Chad Houck, Idaho's chief deputy secretary of state. "There are some counties where that is going to be a challenge."
According to Houck, his office and county clerks across the state learned a lot from the May primary, including how to get creative on the fly. With COVID-19 concerns, they know their plan to have in-person voting could present challenges this November.
"Some of that is still early and up in the air," Houck said. "Not trying to put speculation out there that [in-person voting] is not going to happen, we certainly hope it is, that's what we are planning for. But as you know situations can change very quickly."
If there is in-person voting, polls will need to be staffed.
"There's definitely need for poll workers across the state," Houck said. "The traditional poll workers in our state are 65 to 75 years old. They are in the at-risk population that don't want to be out, maybe, in the midst of the COVID environment right now."
The poll locations may also need to be adjusted in many areas. Places like senior centers and schools may not be selected to hold voting. Counties may have to get creative.
"Kind of a compromise in logistics and trying to figure out how that will play. Obviously, if those locations do change, they will be making notification of that. So I think the biggest thing for voters, realize that this is going to be fluid up until November," said Houck.
The biggest challenge right now - planning for the unknown.
"Not knowing what the environment is going to look like when that day does finally roll around," Houck said.
One thing that will be an option ahead of election day is absentee voting. There are concerns about people infected with COVID-19 not being able to go to the polls to vote. The solution, get your vote in early and avoid last-minute issues.
"The more time you give yourself the more likely you are to make your vote happen," Houck said. "Clerks will work with you on scenarios and how to keep you safe, keep their staff safe and keep all the other voters in your community safe."
The mindset for the secretary of state's office heading into the fall:
"Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and then take something that is going to fall in the middle, most likely," said Houck.
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