Bonneville County expects to have the same number of polling places in November as it has typically had in recent elections, although voters in a few precincts will be voting at different locations due to coronavirus.
Voters in precincts 12, 24, and 27 will be voting at Linden Park Elementary School, The Waterfront at Snake River Landing and Hillcrest High School, respectively. Previously they had voted at Lincoln Court Retirement Community, the Senior Citizens Community Center and Fairwinds-Sandcreek Retirement Community.
Two precincts that used to vote at the Samuel H. Bennion Student Union Building, on Idaho State University's Idaho Falls campus, have also moved. Precincts 1 and 21 will now vote in the East River LDS Church Building, 3370 North 5th West. These polling places had already been limited on space and had housed two of the counties' larger precincts, said county Elections Supervisor Brenda Prudent.
"We had lines for Precinct 21 four years ago at that location so we know they will have even more this year," she said in an email. "We will be facing space issues in all facilities this year to provide social distancing. With six feet between, voters will need to be prepared to stand in lines regardless of where they vote."
The senior center, Prudent said, is closed now and is too small for the higher turnout expected this year. Prudent said the retirement homes would have hosted polling places if they could, since it is much more convenient for the residents to vote where they live, but "we all need to work to protect the health of these folks and keep them safe from exposure to illness at this time," she said. "If May’s election had not been conducted by mail we would have made the moves then."
Elections officials statewide have said they expected both higher-than-normal turnout this year and more voting by mail than in past elections, some of it from people who requested mail ballots for November when they voted during the all-mail primary in May. They have also expressed worries about whether they will have enough poll workers, as some are worried about returning due to the virus. During a three-day special session last month, legislators passed laws requiring in-person voting to be made available and tweaking absentee ballot rules to give clerks more time to count them, plus a resolution urging Gov. Brad Little to "take all necessary steps" to make sure there are enough poll workers. A bill that would have let counties consolidate precincts into centralized voting centers failed to pass, however. The state Democratic and Republican parties have also said they plan to work together to help recruit poll workers.
"All our polling places are stepping up to help us," Prudent said. "School districts have reached out to us so we can work together to protect students and voters alike as well as provide more room. Bonneville County voters called or mailed letters to volunteer to help wherever we need. Bonneville County Elections Office lays claim to having the best support groups of all the counties in Idaho. We are very thankful."