Healthy turnout in Tuesday’s election

Chief Deputy Clerk Shelley Munson watches as the last stack of ballots clears the machine at 10:33 a.m. on Wednesday morning. (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD)

SANDPOINT — There was a 76-percent turnout on Election Day, according to the Bonner County Clerk’s Office.

There were 25,260 registered voters and 18,996 cast ballots in Tuesday’s general election, Clerk Marie Scott said. Nearly 2,200 of participating registered on the day of the election.

This year’s general election turnout was significantly higher than May’s closed primary, which had a 30-percent turnout. But it’s slightly lower than the turnout in the 2008 presidential election, when 78 percent of the county’s registered voters participated.

The current turnout record was etched in 1992, when 81 percent of the county’s voters turned up at the polls to cast their vote.

Vigorous absentee voting and an active write-in campaign significantly delayed the results of Tuesday’s election. The county’s optical-scanning ballot reader was programmed to stop each time it detected a write-in vote so the ballot could be counted by hand.

The county’s ballot tabulator lacks the technology to read the names of write-in candidates.

Incumbent Commissioner Lewis Rich agreed to concede his write-in race at about 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, when he was trailing far behind Republican nominee Cary Kelly.

Creases in folded absentee ballots that were sent through the mail, meanwhile, caused the ballot reader to frequently jam during the count.

Scott said that she is investigating the cost of sending out absentee ballots unfolded to sidestep that problem in the future.

The count was further hindered at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, when the ballot-counting machine stopped communicating with a dot-matrix printer that creates the audit trail for the ballot count. The problem held up the count for about an hour.

The last stack of ballots passed through the machine at 10:33 a.m.

The standing record for latest results was set in 2006, when a final result wasn’t reached until about 2 p.m. the day after the election because of a bona fide write-in campaign by Karl Dye.

Bonner was the last county in the state to complete its count, which was also the case in the May primary. Numerous write-in races for precinct committee personnel and a District 7 write-in were the source of much of the delays in results in that contest.

Scott said the county’s $60,000 counting machine is the best available in a paper-ballot state such as Idaho.

“It’s the newest and latest,” she said.

Idaho’s largest counties use the same machines, although they have populations that justify having multiple machines on hand, Scott said.

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