By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
Planning to vote in the Caldwell city council runoff? Be prepared for the potential of a long line.
While Ada County is opening up all its 88 regular polling places for the Boise mayoral runoff, Caldwell voters have just one option on Dec. 3: the Canyon County Elections Office in Caldwell.
For the Nov. 5 election, Caldwell had 18 precincts, and 3,290 people voted in the now-contested race for City Council Seat 6.
Canyon County wasn’t prepared for a runoff, and announced it would hold one only after a challenge from city council candidate Evangeline Beechler to Caldwell’s interpretation of the word “majority” in city code. Boise, which spells out a provision for runoffs in city code, had been anticipating the possibility since before the regular election.
In its Wednesday press release, Canyon County acknowledged that election day will be busy. “The Elections Office encourages as many voters as possible to take advantage of early voting to help reduce potential lines and wait times for the runoff election on December 3,” the press release says. Early voting starts on Monday, Nov. 18 and ends Nov. 29. The office will be closed on Thanksgiving.
Like Ada, Canyon County will automatically send absentee ballots to those who had requested one during the regular election. Caldwell voters will also receive a postcard in the mail informing them of the single location for the runoff.
Canyon County public information officer Joe Decker said the decision to have just one polling location is partly to keep costs down, but also because of the compressed timeline to organize the unanticipated runoff. Decker pointed to the logistical difficulties of securing the normal polling places, as well as enough volunteers, with only a few weeks to go.
Instead, the single polling place will be staffed by county employees. The elections office, which has just 10 parking spaces, plus one handicap spot, is also looking at reserving additional street parking and parking across the street for voters, Decker said.
There is just one item on the Caldwell ballot: the runoff between Beechler and John McGee. Still, even if only a fifth of those who turned up on Nov. 5 show up in three weeks — 658 — that will still be almost twice as many voters than showed up to Caldwell’s busiest precinct on election day.
To avoid long lines, Decker stressed early voting.
“As many people as we can get in to vote early, the less likely it will be that Dec. 3 is just a madhouse at the elections office,” Decker said.