State deploying emergency poll workers to multiple counties

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

The state is deploying emergency poll workers today to counties that anticipate shortages.

Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck wouldn’t disclose which counties requested help, saying he didn’t want concerns over shortages or COVID-19 to suppress voter turnout. That information will be available after the election, he said.

Last week, the Secretary of State’s office requested volunteers from Idaho state agencies to deploy to counties that may have poll worker shortages due to COVID-19 or other reasons. Houck said they capped sign-ups at 87, and don’t anticipate using all of the volunteers.

The Secretary of State told volunteers to be ready to travel to any of Idaho’s 44 counties. Houck spoke to Idaho Reports while on his way to the airport to see off some volunteers at 1 pm Monday. Some were notified Sunday evening, Houck said, while the rest found out this morning.

In October, positive COVID tests among workers at early voting locations in Kootenai and Canyon Counties forced some election workers into quarantine. 

Houck said even before those issues arose, the state had discussed recruiting emergency poll workers.

“While most counties have contingency plans… it was feasible that some could get to a point that they would overwhelm their own contingency plan,” Houck said. At one point, they considered using the National Guard, but the office ultimately decided to ask state employees. One e-mail from the state’s Division of Human Resources could reach all employees in a streamlined way, Houck said. 

Houck also gave an update on early voting:

Total absentee requests: 421,535

Absentee ballots returned as of Monday morning: 355,169

Total in-person early voters: 136,775

Total as of Monday morning: 491,994

Houck said the office anticipates crossing the 500,000 mark today, which puts Idaho at 49 percent of the electorate having cast ballots before Tuesday.

During the presidential election in 2016, voters cast 710,545 ballots, with 75 percent turnout. At the time, there were 936,529 registered voters in Idaho.

That number has since increased, hitting 1,006,528 registered as of last Tuesday.

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