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Primary election moves exclusively to vote by mail
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Primary election moves exclusively to vote by mail

Polling places

"I Voted" stickers sit on top of the ballot box in November 2018 at Twin Falls Reformed Church in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — Every Idahoan who wants to participate in the May 19 primary election must cast their vote by mail, but ballots will not be sent to registered voters automatically.

Gov. Brad Little signed a proclamation Wednesday outlining the process for the upcoming primary election, which will be conducted entirely through mail-in absentee voting as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proclamation says voters in Idaho will now have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to request an absentee ballot. The deadline to submit a ballot is pushed back until 8 p.m. on June 2.

Twin Falls County Clerk Kristina Glascock praised the decision.

“It’s going to be a change for everybody,” she said, “but due to the coronavirus, I think we need to do this to keep our voters and our poll workers and our community safe.”

Despite the move to use absentee ballots, registered voters in Idaho must still request a ballot. That’s because the election is a primary, Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said at a press conference Wednesday. Voters will need to specify which ballot they want to receive: Republican, Democratic or Constitution. Since Idaho’s Republican party holds a closed primary, only those who are registered with the GOP may receive that ballot.

Denney said every Idaho household that has not requested an absentee ballot will receive a request form in the mail within the next two weeks. The state also recently made requests available online at idahovotes.gov. Those without internet access or with other accessibility issues should call their county clerk’s office to receive a ballot.

Once the request form is completed and returned — either online or in the mail — a ballot will be mailed to the voter.

“Having Idahoans request an absentee ballot and vote at home will protect the health of Idahoans, slow the spread of COVID-19, and allow the election to move forward as scheduled,” Denney said.

Election results will be available at the earliest at 9 p.m. on June 2.

Voters in the May primary will decide on Congressional seats, legislative seats and county offices. Some taxing districts may run levy or bond questions.

The process for elections and absentee voting is already defined in code. The proclamation issued Wednesday waived many of the normal requirements. Under Idaho law, the governor has the power to “suspend the provisions of any regulations prescribing the procedures for conduct of public business that would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency.”

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