‘I’m glad I’m in line to vote early’: Kootenai County voters showing up in record numbers

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — We’re two weeks away from Election Day, and Kootenai County voters are showing up in record numbers to return their ballots or vote early in-person.

According to the Kootenai County Elections Department, nearly 103,000 people have registered to vote in Kootenai County. Some have decided to vote early, in-person.

“You’re doing something for your country,” said Rafael Zamora, a first-time voter. “I feel like it’s something you’re supposed to do. It’s helping the government move along.”

He came to the department with his parents on Tuesday. He registered to vote.

“If I don’t vote I feel like I can’t really complain about stuff that’s going on, but if I vote at least I tried to do something,” he explained.

Others were also waiting in line to vote.

“I’m glad I’m here,” said Christ Kersey, who is voting early for the first time. “I’m glad I’m in line to vote early.”

Anne Wilson and John Thomasset said they’ve voted absentee in the past, but decided to come in-person.

“We have an absentee, but I would rather do the experience in voting because it makes you feel really good,” Wilson said. “It makes you do something great for your country, it’s patriotic.”

When voters get inside, Chief Deputy Clerk Jennifer Locke is waiting to help.

“It’s really nice to see everyone coming out whether it’s absentee, early voting or an Election Day to participate in the process,” Locke said.

She told 4 News Now the record-breaking numbers they have seen so far.

“As of Wednesday, we’ll be close to sending out 46,000 absentee ballots total,” she said. “So by the end of Friday, when we have that last request in, we could likely be close to 50,000 absentee requests.”

The latest data shows that nearly 46,000 of those absentee ballots have been sent out to voters, with 20,000 having already been returned as of Tuesday afternoon.

“The last day to request an absentee ballot is Friday, October 23 and then early voting will go from October 19 until Friday, October 30,” Locke explained.

They’ve also broken an early voting record. On Monday, the first day of voting early, 931 showed up. As of Tuesday afternoon, this climbed to a total of 1,317 people.

If you come in to vote early, Locke said you must have your ID. If you come to register, you must have your ID and a proof of residency.

Voters looking to come in person to vote, but already have an absentee ballot, Locke said you can.

“It [computer] literally flags that they’ve been mailed an absentee ballot and we say to the voter are you willing to surrender that ballot because it’s voided in our system right then and there,” she explained. “Some people, if they have it right here, we’re having them write void and then we put it in our voided envelope.”

Locke is encouraging voters to come in early to vote or send in their absentee ballots.

“If they’re early voting and they’re absentee, that’s a little bit easier for our poll workers on Election Day because we don’t know what to expect on Election Day,” she said.

On Tuesday, poll workers were scanning in ballots. Others were checking questionable signatures. Locke said more than 800 people signed up to be a poll worker.

“I think it’s definitely smart for us to be active and start getting used to voting because we’re going to be voting for our whole life now,” Zamora said. “It feels kinda cool. It feels like I’m doing something.”

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