A desire to help Custer County residents, and be a good resident himself, led Challis resident Jason Mackrill to pursue a write-in candidacy for the Nov. 3 county attorney election.
"My family moved here because we didn't just want to be in a small town," he said," but also because we want to invest in the community."
Mackrill moved to Challis last December after graduating from Concordia University School of Law in Boise. While some might say his inexperience is a disadvantage, Mackrill sees it as an opportunity to bring new ideas to the prosecuting attorney's office.
If elected, Mackrill would enact practices that could result in lighter sentences for people convicted in Custer County. Mackrill said he knows there are some bad people out there, but many others just suffer from bad decision-making skills.
Offenses like graffiti and juvenile crimes don't need a heavy hand, Mackrill said. In the instance of a graffiti artist, Mackrill said a fair punishment would be to have the offender clean the property they defaced at their own expense, as opposed to making the person pay a fine. He said this would give the offender an opportunity to reflect on what they did and realize they got off easy.
"When someone has the chance to atone, that sometimes serves as a better deterrent and rehabilitation than jail," Mackrill said.
Mackrill said he would use a similar approach to contemplate prosecuting a person for failing to follow health district mandates meant to fight the coronavirus. On the whole, mandates to physically distance and wear face coverings aren't constitutional, Mackrill said, so people shouldn't be punished for choosing to not follow them.
Special circumstances, like someone refusing to wear a covering in a private business that requires them, might force Mackrill to be more strict, but he said he doesn't see that happening in Custer County.
Mackrill would dedicate plenty of time to working with county officials to improve the county jail. The small, 100-year-old building does not meet federal standards, and puts the county at risk of being sued. Mackrill said one of his primary concerns, if elected, would be helping to find a place to build an adequate jail in the county.
It would have to be outside the Challis city limits, Mackrill said, because Challis residents have expressed fear of bringing more inmates to town.
A task like that will take time, and even though he'd have limited resources, Mackrill said he's willing to put in whatever it takes. The Custer County attorney has a staff of one paralegal to assist in the job, and Mackrill said even though the post is part time, he knows he'll work beyond a full day sometimes. However, Mackrill said since the county government seems to run fine on that arrangement, he wouldn't try to increase his staff or change his hours if elected.
Mackrill said his main advantage in the race, and the main reason he decided to file as a write-in candidate, is that he is a full-time resident of the county. His opponent, incumbent Justin Oleson, lives partly in Custer County and partly in Bingham County. Mackrill said a position like county attorney requires someone who can make himself available to his fellow residents in an instant.
Mackrill is running as a write-in candidate for a four-year term as county attorney in the Nov. 3 general election. He declared as a Republican. Oleson's name is the only name on the ballot, after he won the Republican primary election, defeating Mackrill.
People can register at the polls on Election Day by bringing a photo identification card and proof of address. Early voting is already open. People can vote early in person at the Custer County Courthouse. Voters who requested ballots be mailed to them can vote at home and return their ballots by mail or by dropping them off at the courthouse. Early ballots must be at the county clerk's office by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
Custer County polling locations remain the same for the Nov. 3 general election. Residents in the Challis precinct vote at the Challis Middle School, Round Valley precinct 1 and 2 residents vote at the Challis Legion Hall, Stanley precinct voters will go to the Stanley Community Center and Mackay and Leslie precinct residents will vote in the South Custer Rural Fire Hall in Mackay. Voters who live in the Clayton, Sunol and Battleground precincts always vote by mail.