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Viewpoint: Prepping for the November election; recapping the Idaho legislature special session

This episode of Viewpoint looks into the challenges of the November election and the new laws that came out of the special legislative session.

BOISE, Idaho — The November general election is just two months away.

Idahoans are now faced with the decision to vote early, vote in person at their polling place on election day or cast an absentee ballot.

County clerks are finalizing their plans to keep voters and poll workers as safe as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic and to be able to handle a huge volume of mail-in ballots.

In the recent special session of the legislature, lawmakers passed two bills about elections.

Governor Brad Little has signed them into law.

One gives county clerks more time to process the large number of absentee ballots they expect to receive.

The state has already received more than 300,000 absentee ballot requests, and the number keeps growing every day. 

"Up to a week earlier (before election day November 3) clerks throughout the state will be able to open and start scanning the ballots," Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said. "We won't actually start counting results. The computer systems we use can scan the image of the ballot, not actually look at the results yet, and then when we tell the computer to it will go through and process all of those votes and we'll have results into the evening while you guys are covering the news just like we would normally expect."

The other new election law guarantees in-person voting in some form regardless of any emergency orders in effect.

During the taping of this week's Viewpoint, McGrane laid out some of the safety protocols that will be in place at polling places on election day. Central District Health has approved all of them.

"We're providing protective gear including masks," McGrane said. "We have face shields for our poll workers, cleaning supplies to regularly clean some of the materials. I think one of the interesting examples that we'll see in November is we're encouraging voters, if they want, to bring their own writing utensil, bring a pen with them. We will also be providing pencils, individual, commemorative pencils for this year's election."

Counties are also facing a poll worker shortage. Many people decided not to work this year because of COVID-19 concerns. Clerks are looking for interested people to fill the need.

If you live in Ada County, you can go to the Ada County Elections website

Those in Canyon County can click here

On Viewpoint this Sunday at 6:30 a.m., McGrane also discusses election security and making sure every vote counts.

Plus, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke discusses the new laws passed in the special session, and what lawmakers learned from the protests and chaos as they look ahead to the next legislative session in January.

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