TWIN FALLS — More than 500 people have already cast their votes in elections happening around Twin Falls County.
That’s slightly higher than what’s typical for early voting in city elections. The county also mailed out 147 absentee ballots. But that’s still only a small portion of the 27,590 Twin Falls County residents who will be eligible to vote in this election.
Voters who live in cities and taxing districts around the state will hit the polls today to select their representatives in local government. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Twin Falls County Clerk Kristina Glascock said many of those who voted early were poll workers. She expects the county will have overall low turnout of eligible voters.
In 2015, voter turnout in Twin Falls County was 19 percent — up from the 2013 elections, when only 12 percent of voters cast ballots.
In Twin Falls city, voter turnout in 2015 was 16 percent, but smaller cities had larger turnouts; more than 30 percent in Castleford, Hansen, Hollister and Kimberly.
If you weren’t one of the early voters, here’s what you need to know before you head to the polls:
If you have never registered to vote but are eligible to, you can register at a polling place on Election Day.
You will need to bring your driver’s license number or provide the last four digits of a Social Security number. Eligible voters must also be a U.S. citizen, 18 years old or older and be a resident in the state and county for at least 30 days prior to Election Day.
Proof of residence can be a valid Idaho driver’s license or identification card, or any document with a valid address in the precinct combined with picture identification. Students can use a current student ID (with their picture) from a post-secondary school in the state, combined with a current student fee statement that includes the student’s valid address in the precinct.
Everyone who intends to vote should bring identification to the polling place. This can be a valid Idaho driver’s license or ID card issued by the Idaho Department of Transportation; a passport or ID card issued by an agency of the federal government; a tribal ID card that includes a photograph; or a student ID card that has a photograph and is issued by a high school or accredited institution of higher education in Idaho; or a license to carry concealed weapons.
“If they don’t have any of those on them, and they are already registered, they can sign an affidavit,” Glascock said.
Your precinct is listed on the letter you received when you registered to vote. If you’re not sure where your precinct’s voting location is, you can check at idahovotes.gov or call your county clerk’s office.
The county clerk can also tell you if your registration information is up-to-date and if you’re eligible to vote in this election, since it affects only residents of cities and certain taxing districts.
Here are the phone numbers for county clerk’s offices in south-central Idaho:
Blaine County: 208-788-5505
Camas County: 208-764-2242
Cassia County: 208-878-5231
Gooding County: 208-934-4841
Jerome County: 208-644-2714
Lincoln County: 208-886-7641, ext. 101
Minidoka County: 208-436-7111
Twin Falls County: 208-736-4004
Absentee ballots have to be brought in to your county clerk’s office before polls close on Election Day. So even if you end up being in town, you can’t bring it directly to your polling place or try to vote there.
“If you already requested an absentee ballot, that is your ballot,” Glascock said.
If you haven’t kept up with local coverage, many counties have sample ballots along with election information on their websites. You can also find a Times-News voters guide at Magicvalley.com or by purchasing the Oct. 29 paper.
Technically, yes. But unless it’s one of the few people who filed to be write-in candidates in a specific race, then you’re wasting your time.
“All of the Mickey Mouses and Donald Ducks that we get are not counted,” Twin Falls County Elections Director Valerie Varadi said.
Keep an eye on coverage for south-central Idaho elections at Magicvalley.com.
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church had a history of domestic violence and sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist, before the attack in which he fired at least 450 rounds at helpless worshippers, authorities said Monday.
A day after the deadliest mass shooting in state history, the military acknowledged that it did not submit the shooter's criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon. If his past offenses had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun.
Investigators also revealed that sheriff's deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at Devin Patrick Kelley's home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife. Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.
In the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, population 400, grieving townspeople were reeling from their losses. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years old and included multiple members of some families.
"Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family," said the pastor's wife Sherri Pomeroy, who, like her husband, was out of town when the attack happened. "Now most of our church family is gone."
The couple's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among those killed.
Kelley's mother-in-law sometimes attended services there, but the sheriff said she was not at church Sunday.
The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said. He did not elaborate.
Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders, one of whom was armed, and crashed his car.
The 26-year-old shooter also used his cellphone to tell his father he had been shot and did not think he would survive, authorities said.
While in the military, Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
He was discharged for the assault involving his previous wife and her child and had served a year of confinement after a court-martial. Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel for crimes such as assault should be submitted to the FBI's Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.
Stefanek said the service is launching a review of its handling of the case and taking a comprehensive look at its databases to ensure other cases have been reported correctly.
"This was a very — based on preliminary reports — a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time," President Donald Trump said when asked about the shooting as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a joint news conference.
Once the shooting started, there was probably "no way" for congregants to escape, Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said.
The gunman, dressed in black tactical gear, fired an assault rifle as he walked down the center aisle during worship services. He turned around and continued shooting on his way out of the building, Tackitt said.
About 20 other people were wounded. Ten of them still were hospitalized Monday in critical condition.
Investigators collected hundreds of shell casings from the church, along with 15 empty magazines that held 30 rounds each.
Kelley lived in New Braunfels, about 35 miles north of the church, authorities said. Investigators were reviewing social media posts he made in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.
On Sunday, the attacker pulled into a gas station across from the church, about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio. He crossed the street and started firing the rifle at the church, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, Martin said.
As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who had grabbed his own rifle and exchanged fire with Kelley.
The armed man who confronted Kelley had help from another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who said he was driving past the church as the shooting happened. The armed man asked to get in Langendorff's truck, and the pair followed as the gunman drove away.
"He jumped in my truck and said, 'He just shot up the church. We need to go get him.' And I said 'Let's go,'" Langendorff said.
The pursuit reached speeds up to 90 mph. The gunman eventually lost control of his vehicle and crashed. The armed man walked up to the vehicle with his gun drawn, and the attacker did not move. Police arrived about five minutes later, Langendorff said.
The assailant was dead in his vehicle. He had three gunshot wounds — two from where the armed man hit him in the leg and the torso and the third self-inflicted wound to the head, authorities said.
"There was no thinking about it. There was just doing. That was the key to all this. Act now. Ask questions later," he said.
Three weapons were recovered. A Ruger AR-556 rifle was found at the church, and two handguns were recovered from the gunman's vehicle, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The assailant did not have a license to carry a concealed handgun, Martin said.
KIMBERLY — Kimberly residents: The school district is looking for your input on elementary school attendance zones.
It’s holding tours Saturday of its new elementary school — under construction now and slated for completion in June 2018 — and there’s a community meeting Nov. 16 to seek input on zones, the new school’s name, colors and mascot.
It’s the first time Kimberly will have school attendance zones. A second elementary school campus opening next fall means students will be divided among the two schools. School officials are also developing policies about how in and out-of-district transfers will be handled.
Superintendent Luke Schroeder said Monday he wants to encourage community members to weigh in.
“We want them to be empowered with knowledge,” he said. “It’s just very important that they attend these meetings and ask questions. The last thing we want to do is make decisions in isolation.”
Schroeder declined Monday to share details about the recommendations — including what the elementary school boundaries may be — saying he wants to wait until the community meeting.
After gathering input this month, school trustees are slated to make a decision during a Dec. 20 meeting.
Construction on the $10.7 million school has been underway since spring. The 50,000-square-foot building will help alleviate overcrowding, since the existing elementary school has more than 900 students.
Then, remodeling will begin on the existing elementary school.
The new 10-acre campus is at the corner of Polk Street West and Emerald Drive North, east of Ballards Way subdivision.
The new school will be paid for using a $14 million bond voters approved in May 2016. Construction is on time and budget, Schroeder said Monday.
At a community meeting Nov. 16, recommendations from an approximately 15-member transition committee — which includes community members, school employees and school trustees — will be presented about elementary school attendance boundaries, school name, colors and mascot.
The committee has met since April. It looked at data about where current elementary schoolers live and where future growth may occur.
Another big factor: Looking at where socioeconomically disadvantaged students live and making sure they’re not all in one school building.
The committee didn’t use computer mapping software, but drew boundaries manually. It went through class lists and placed each student in school boundary.
It tried using computer software a couple of times, Schroeder said, but found it wasn’t always accurate.
The group also created two community surveys about a school name, colors and mascot. It received about 600 responses each time. The survey didn’t ask for feedback on school boundaries.
The committee presented recommendations to the school board in mid-October and met in a work session Thursday with the board to discuss the recommendations further.
Schroeder said: “Now the board would like to hear from the patrons about how they feel about the recommendations.”
If you do one thing: A free Reptile Revue will be held at 6 p.m. at College of Southern Idaho’s Herrett Center for Arts and Science in Twin Falls, and “Titans of the Ice Age” will be shown at 7 p.m. in Faulkner Planetarium; $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.
Investigators believe a young man who was hitchhiking from Junction City, Oregon, to Boise fell victim to a trio of Idahoans who befriended and then killed him, court documents show.
The three Idahoans have been arrested in the death of Hunter Allyn Smith, 18, whose body was found by hunters in the Bruneau Desert in eastern Owyhee County on Oct. 21.
The victim is named in some of the court documents and he reportedly went missing while heading to Boise in mid- to late June. Owyhee County Prosecutor Doug Emery said Thursday that the evidence they have points to Hunter but that DNA tests have not come back.
Nicholas B. Vandenberg, a 27-year-old Melba man, was charged with first-degree murder a week ago. Two others were charged this week with felony conspiracy to commit murder: Montanna R. Reed, 20, of Twin Falls, and Willie K. Rabey, 34, of Mountain Home.
Emery said one of the defendants is believed to have picked up Smith as he was hitchhiking in June. Here’s what prosecutors say happened after that, according to the three criminal complaints filed against the suspects:
Vandenberg, Reed and Rabey devised a plan to invite Smith to Vandenberg’s home, and then later to shoot firearms.
Their plan was for Vandenberg to shoot Smith. The trio loaded guns into a vehicle and rode with Smith to an unspecified location. Reed and Rabey watched as Vandenberg deliberately shot Smith at close range in the upper torso and face/head with a .45-caliber pistol.
Reed and Rabey also watched and/or helped Vandenberg remove Smith’s clothing. One or both helped Vandenberg drag the body to a nearby ditch, and then burned Smith’s clothes.
The group planned to commit other criminal acts in the future, including murder, the charging documents allege.
“There were discussions about other offenses. There’s no specific evidence to any other detailed [murder] plot,” Emery told the Statesman on Thursday.
Emery said one of the suspects had possession of Smith’s ID or driver’s license.
“We can’t find that there was any ill will between the deceased and the suspects,” Emery said. “There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason as to the way this went down as it did.”
In addition to murder, Vandenberg is charged with use of a firearm while committing a felony and destruction or concealment of evidence.
Emery said investigators were looking into a post and related comments on what appears to be Vandenberg’s Facebook page about the discovery of the body.
Vandenberg was arrested in Elmore County and was initially held in the jail there. He was arraigned in Owyhee County on Monday, according to online court records.
He was appointed a public defender. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.
Rabey was arraigned Thursday on the conspiracy charge, as well as felony destruction or concealment of evidence, according to online court records. A preliminary hearing date in Owyhee County is set for Dec. 18.
No information on Reed, held at the Twin Falls County Jail pending extradition to Owyhee County, was available online Thursday.
Rabey served about four years in prison for past crimes, according to Idaho Department of Correction records. He was sentenced in January 2004 to 3 to 5 years for burglary in Owyhee County.
That sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation. In July that year, his sentence was revoked, and he was sent to prison and ordered to undergo a treatment program there. He completed that program and was released on probation.
In 2005, he was sentenced to 2 to 5 years in prison for a burglary conviction in Canyon County. That sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation. After a violation, he was back in custody in June 2006. His sentence was completed and he was released from prison in February 2010.
TWIN FALLS — It’s crunch time for high school seniors who are applying for college.
This week, they’re getting a little extra help. It’s College Application Week, a 5-year-old initiative sponsored by the Idaho State Board of Education and part of a nationwide program. Across Idaho, 80 high schools are participating.
About half of Idaho’s high school seniors continue their education within a year of graduating. The state wants to boost that rate, partly to help meet workforce needs.
With initiatives like College Application Week and the state paying for every junior to take the SAT in the spring, “it’s all about putting the different ingredients together to make it easier for students to pursue their college goals,” Idaho State Board of Education spokesman Blake Youde said.
This week, students will spent a class period talking about college and working on applications.
“I think you need to do it early because it takes a lot more time than you realize,” he said of the applications.
Mike and many of his classmates at Canyon Ridge are planning to wrap up college applications this week. Many have also filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a requirement if students are seeking scholarships or loans to help pay for college.
Students are getting help with their college applications from school employees and volunteers from several Idaho colleges and universities, including the College of Southern Idaho.
Here in south-central Idaho, a handful of schools are participating in College Application Week: Canyon Ridge High, Twin Falls High School, Magic Valley High School, Minico High School in Rupert, Mt. Harrison High School in Heyburn, Filer, Hansen, Kimberly, Buhl, Burley High School, Declo High School and Raft River High School in Malta.
One change this year: There’s a new “Apply Idaho” online common application students can use to apply to all of Idaho’s public colleges and universities for free.
Mike finds help with college applications and financial aid through Canyon Ridge’s GEAR UP office. “There’s a lot of stuff I think kids aren’t prepared for,” he said.
Something that helps: More than 20,000 Idaho high school seniors have already been accepted to Idaho’s public colleges and universities for fall 2018. Students received admission letters in September.
It’s the third year of the state board’s Direct Admissions Initiative. Students are accepted to schools based on their grade-point average and college entrance-exam score.
Students still need to submit an application for schools they’re interested in.
Canyon Ridge High student Amani Adem, 18, is applying to Boise State University and wants to become an optometrist. She has visited the BSU campus twice and said she likes it.
Through Canyon Ridge’s GEAR UP grant, there are opportunities for students to go on trips to visit college campuses, Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said.
Amani, who arrived in Twin Falls as a refugee, will be the first generation in her family to go to college.
Classmate Brison Tilo, 17, is aiming to go to college in Utah, where he has many family members, but has also applied to Colorado State University and Montana State University.
He’ll also be a first-generation college student. He wants to study either physical therapy or engineering.
Ben Carberry, 17 — Mike’s brother — is applying to University of Utah, Montana State University and University of Idaho. He plans to study business, entrepreneurship or marketing.
Beyond College Application Week, students will have access to more help in the coming months as they decide what to do after high school.