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

“We are well on track for some records,” a state election official said.

BOISE, Idaho — The coronavirus pandemic continues to create unique arrangements, and Idaho's May primary election is no different.

“The constitution lays out that you have a right to vote," said Chad Houck, chief deputy with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. "The constitution does not detail the means that the right will be exercised.” 

For the 2020 Idaho primary, the means is through the mail via absentee ballots.

“We are well on track for some records,” Houck said, noting that ballot request numbers are soaring.

“387,000 of those have come in and processed by noon [Tuesday]," he said. "Of those, 370,000 are already turned around and back out the door."

According to Houck, a fair comparison to past years is the 2016 May primary.

“We are pushing much higher, closer to a 40% send-out of ballots, so now the question is just going to be, what is the return of those going to look like?” he said.

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A lot of heavy lifting has been done locally.

”The credit really goes to the 44 county clerks and their staffs, their election teams, even outside of elections," Houck said. "They’ve been pulled in to accommodate the tremendous number of requests that have come in statewide."

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane backed up that sentiment.  

“We got 14 trays of absentee ballots in the mail this morning, so that’s what the people behind me are working on, getting the absentee ballots in,” McGrane said.

While absentee ballots aren’t due back at clerks' offices until June 2, requests for those ballots must be in by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

McGrane says things are going smoothly so far, but voters need to make sure they actually send their ballot in.

“We really want to start encouraging voters to get those ballots back to us," he said. "We need time to be able to process them and to check all those signatures and really these next two weeks are that window to get your vote cast and to get those ballots back.'       

Remember, there is a deadline.

“8 p.m. on June 2 and that means we have to have the ballots back," McGrane said. "It’s not you can mail them by June 2, you need to mail them now so we have plenty of time to get that in."     

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