A change made six months ago for the primary election is causing some confusion for the general election.

“Some voters are concerned because they have received a ballot in the mail and they do not remember requesting a ballot,” Lynn Ragan, election supervisor for Benewah County, said.

Despite the objections, Ms. Ragan said that only people who requested a ballot will receive one in the mail.

“This is not Washington State. In Idaho, we do not mail ballots to every voter. We only mail ballots to people who asked us to mail them a ballot.”

The confusion is caused by one small box – and the Coronavirus.

Because of the pandemic, and fear of spreading the disease at polling places, the 2020 primary election was conducted entirely by mail. Voters were required to complete forms to request ballots, which were then mailed to them.

So far, so good.

The forms that were used included a box that voters marked to request their primary ballot.

Again, so far, so good.

But in addition, the forms included a second box that – if checked – was a request that the county mail a general election ballot as well.

“A lot of voters do not remember checking that second box, so when the ballot arrives at their home they have questions and concerns,” Ms. Ragan said. “Since they don’t remember requesting the general election ballot, they want to know why the county is mailing them a ballot.”

The local concerns over mailed ballots ties into a national debate about vote by mail.

Some states – Washington is an example – mail ballots to all registered voters, regardless whether the ballot was requested. Critics charge that method of mass-distribution of ballots is susceptible to fraud.

“Some voters who receive a ballot without realizing they requested the ballot are angry because they think we are mailing ballots to everyone,” Ms. Ragan said. “That is not the case. In Idaho, all mailed ballots must be requested by the voter.”

Other people are upset that they received a ballot in the mail because they want to vote in person at the polls.

People who requested and received a mailed ballot can still vote at the polls. They can bring their mailed ballot to the polls, where it would be declares spoiled and they would be issued a new ballot.

“We prefer people not do that because it could cause an issue,” Ms. Ragan said. “If too many people come to the polls to request a second ballot, we could run out of ballots. We printed plenty of ballots but we have no way of knowing how many people will request a second ballot.”

But people who did receive a ballot in the mail can bring the ballots to the courthouse election day and have their vote recorded that way, she said.

For more information about the election call 208-245-3212. To see a copy of the image of your ballot-request form, visit the auditor’s office at the Benewah County Courthouse.

(1) comment

Eric H. Frankel, PharmD, BCNSP

Very informative and unbiased reporting of the facts about mail-in ballots in Idaho.

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