Many casting early votes



Early and absentee voting in the Idaho Falls’ mayoral runoff is coming in at a break-neck pace, according to Bonneville County election officials.

“This is a record for us,” Elections Supervisor Brenda Prudent said. “There’s very high interest out there.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Prudent said more than 1,100 early ballots had been cast, and 329 absentee ballots had been returned (out of 425 requested). Early voting remains open until 5 p.m. Friday, and Prudent said the final day is often the heaviest.

By comparison, a total of 936 combined early and absentee ballots were cast during the 2013 city council runoff election.

In a big surprise, Prudent said early and absentee ballots cast in the runoff are on track to match or exceed the number cast in the November election, when a large school bond and three city council seats were also on the ballot. In that election, about 1,270 early votes and 342 absentee ballots were cast.

“Usually the last day gets heavy,” Prudent said. “If it follows the trend, it will probably surpass it if not at least equal it.”

It appears the mayoral runoff could be a very high-turnout election, considering there is only a single race on the ballot. There are likely to be a number of factors driving high turnout, including a race that has inflamed passions among supporters of both incumbent Mayor Rebecca Casper and challenging Councilwoman Barbara Ehardt.

Prudent said, as in the prior election, the Bonneville County Elections office sought and got permission to open early voting as soon as possible in order to give residents ample opportunity to cast their ballots.

Prudent said the office staff is also hopeful election results will be tabulated more quickly than normal. The county doesn’t have quite enough digital scanners to place them in every polling place during a county-wide election, so some counting has to take place manually.

But since the runoff will be held only in Idaho Falls precincts, there are enough digital scanners to go around.

“We hope to have returns very early, as soon as we can get tabulations in the precincts,” Prudent said.

Regular voting will open at 8 a.m. Tuesday, with polls closing at 8 p.m. Prudent said voters who have moved or who haven’t registered should know they can register on the day they vote with photo identification and proof of residency.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.