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Ada County Elections taking steps to prevent fraud, protect voter privacy

Because the May primary is being done entirely by mail, elections officials say they are taking extra steps to ensure voter privacy and prevent fraud.

BOISE, Idaho — Workers at the Ada County Elections Office started the long process of opening absentee ballots Wednesday morning.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the May primary election is being conducted entirely by mail.

Election day was technically on May 19, but the deadline to request ballots was pushed back to Tuesday, May 26 after a federal judge in Boise ruled that, because of issues with the state's elections website, the deadline would be extended.

All absentee ballots must be received by county clerks offices by 8 p.m. on June 2.

As local elections officials begin the process of sorting through ballots, they are taking extra steps to ensure the process is both secure and private.

According to Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, elections workers first check signatures on the back of each returned envelope and compare it to the signature on the voter's registration card to confirm it's the voter who returned the ballot.

Workers then open the envelope and take out the ballot, which remains inside a secrecy sleeve. Ballots are then separated from the envelopes in order to keep votes private.

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We asked McGrane on Wednesday how these steps aim to eliminate voter fraud.

"That's one of the concerns we hear, is how do we know whose [ballot] it is?" McGrane said. "Because we're comparing to that original signature on their voter registration card or their driver's license - we have access to those as well. Our staff gets trained by law enforcement in signature verification."

If workers come across a signature that doesn't look right or doesn't quite match up, the clerk's office reaches out to that voter to make sure it was them who voted.

Once all of the ballots are opened, they will be stored securely until workers start counting them on Monday and into Tuesday.

Election results will be available starting at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2. KTVB will have full coverage on that night, both on KTVB.COM and on the News at 10.

RELATED: Idaho mail-in primary election underway; Nearly 400,000 absentee ballots requested

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