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Ada County Clerk's Office preps for high voter turnout, possible mayoral runoffs

Clerk Phil McGrane says both Boise and Eagle have the potential to see a mayoral runoff election, which would take place in December.

BOISE, Idaho — In less than a week, voters will decide several big mayoral and city council races in the Treasure Valley.


Three of those mayoral races are happening in Ada County. 

A state statute allows each city in Idaho to determine whether it wants to adopt a runoff policy for mayoral and city council races, meaning municipal election rules can vary from city to city.

“Probably the biggest race that we have [in Ada County] is the Boise mayor’s race,” said Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane.

Because there are so many candidates, it's been a very active race and McGrane said the clerk's office is keeping a close eye on it because it could make history for Ada County. 

RELATED: Idaho election 2019: Where to vote and how to see election results

The City of Boise has a runoff provision, allowing for a possible mayoral runoff. If that happens, it would be a first for Ada County. 

In order to avoid a runoff, one of the candidates must get at least 50% of the vote plus one.

If for example, the candidate with the highest number of votes only hits 49.9 percent, they are not automatically the winner. 

RELATED: Voter Guide: See what's on your ballot for the November 2019 election

In addition to getting the majority vote, the candidate must also achieve 50% of the total turnout to win. If not, the two candidates with the most votes on election night will go to a runoff. 

With seven candidates vying for Boise mayor, McGrane said there's a good possibility that many candidates will split the numbers and nobody reaches 50%. 

RELATED: Boise mayor candidates talk about growth and affordable housing

The City of Eagle has the same policy as Boise. One of the city's three mayoral candidates needs 50% of the vote plus one to avoid a possible second runoff for Ada County. 

As for Meridian's five mayoral candidates, the city does not have the same runoff provision so whichever mayoral candidate gets the most votes Tuesday night wins the seat. 

MORE: Hear from the 5 candidates for mayor of Meridian

For city council races across Ada County, runoffs don't apply.

“There will not be any runoffs for any of the city council candidates so whoever has the majority of the vote will be the candidate selected,” he said. 

If there is a runoff in either Boise or Eagle, it will happen on December 3, giving the clerk's office just four weeks to prepare for another election.

“For us it takes about three to four months to prepare for an election day – to get all the ballots printed, everything ready, get absentee ballots out – and we’re going to consolidate our calendar down to 30 days and it’ll be just kind of a race for our office to close one election and start the next one up,” McGrane said. 

According to to McGrane, his staff is prepared for a runoff scenario and has been consulting other areas, like Bonneville County, who has had multiple runoff elections.

“One of the things that will be interesting to watch is often, on a national trend, often the person who succeeds on election day does end up winning a runoff election and that’s what we’ve seen elsewhere in the state of Idaho,” he said.

RELATED: Voter Guide: See what's on your ballot for the November 2019 election

McGrane also said so far early voting in Ada County is ahead of what it was at during the last mayoral election four years ago. 

So far, the county has seen about 5,000 early voters and 2,500 absentee ballots. 

McGrane believes one reason the turnout is higher this election is because of big ballot items like mayor and council races, and propositions like the Boise library initiative. The county's additional early voting opportunities, such as the mobile voting center, has helped increase turnout so far, McGrane said. 

KTVB also reached out to Canyon County to find out if there were any possible runoff races. The elections office said no - Canyon County has no runoff policies. 

Early voting ends Nov. 1. 

Election Day is Nov. 5. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

RELATED: Boise City Council candidates share their views during election forum

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We asked the Boise 2019 mayoral candidates all the same questions:

See the full interviews on our YouTube playlist:

Watch more mayoral and city council forums:

See all of our local politics coverage in our YouTube Playlist:

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