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Ada County clerk answers questions about November election and special session bills

Clerks around the state are endorsing two election-specific pieces of legislation announced for the upcoming special session.

BOISE, Idaho — Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane and his elections team is hard at work getting ready for the August 25 school levies election.

Like other county elections offices across Idaho, the team is also focused on the highly-anticipated November general election.

Ahead of that, McGrane told KTVB, clerks around the state are endorsing the two pieces of election legislation announced for the upcoming special legislative session.

The proposed legislation is aimed at making the workload for local clerks offices more manageable.

One centers on in-person voting with proposed regional voting centers and electronic poll books.

“What a vote center does is allow any voter to go to any location within their county,” McGrane said. “It’s no longer restricted that a voter has to go to their specific polling location; They can go to any place they see a vote here sign, and they will really help with our flexibility."

The idea behind it is to use bigger buildings that allow in-person voting while following CDC COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing.

“If we can consolidate down to say, a junior high or a high school in the area, rather than having three or four smaller locations,” McGrane said.

The other piece of legislation buys clerks more time before election day to process the expected high volume of mail-in ballots.

“[It] gives us seven days just to do that work," McGrane said. "It takes a long time physically to open, lay out those ballots and then get them through the scanners. We really just don’t have the equipment to do this kind of volume that we are going to experience this time around."

RELATED: Voter Guide: School levies on Idaho ballots for August 2020 election

The legislation also has a provision to allow clerks to mail out ballots 30 days before the election. It was 45 days before.

To some, that provision looked like it would cause a hardship for clerks and voters. The goal though is to give county clerks more time to prepare ballots to send out.

Under the 45-day rule, clerks had less than a week from when ballots are printed to when they are sent out. The proposed 30-day rule would buy clerks about two more weeks.

The exception would be for absentee ballots sent overseas, which will still fall under the 45-day rule.

McGrane also answered some questions from KTVB viewers about the election.

Terry asked, “To make it easier for people to drop off their ballots, would it be possible to have more drop box locations and make them drive through?”

Answered McGrane: “That’s a great question, we are adding more drop box locations. Over the summer after the May primary we ordered considerably more drop boxes. We’ve worked with some of the cities, we need to find secure locations because the integrity of the ballots is just as important." 

As for the drive-through option, McGrane said he loves the suggestion.

Dick asked, “If someone in Idaho requests an absentee ballot, sends it in and then goes and votes in person will they both count?”

McGrane says no.

“Let’s say someone went and voted in person but also put it in the mail, or the drop box. We are able to track that and catch that so that the mail ballot will not be counted,” he said.

On the 208 Facebook group, Cheri asked, “How do I get my ballot to vote? Do I have to apply for it or will I just get it in the mail? So confused!!”

Answered McGrane: “No voters will be automatically sent a ballot. You must request a ballot if you want one mailed to you. So, visiting Idahovotes.gov is the easiest and perfect way to submit that request. Once the request is in, as we get to the end of September and ballots start going out we will mail you your ballot. If you don’t submit a request, you will have to go to the polls on election day to vote."

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