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Idaho: How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist

If you're already wishing the 2020 election was over, you're going to get your wish before too long. But before Election Day comes, the deadline for registering to vote in Idaho will arrive. 

It's wise to lock down your plan to vote whether you plan on voting in-person on November 3 or you want to find a way to safely vote early. The pandemic is definitely making things more complicated, so work out your strategy and don't let the difficulties turn you into a couch potato. Here's everything you need to know about voting this year, including how to vote early and how to vote safely. 

What’s the deadline to register to vote in Idaho?

You're going to need to have your registration in by October 9 in Idaho. This deadline is a postmark deadline for mailed paper applications. If you're handing in your registration at the county clerk's office, you have until 5pm on October 9. If you choose to register online, you have until midnight, per the state's election calendar

However, you can also register on Election Day at your polling place. Though, registering the day of the election will increase the time you're at the precinct, which isn't ideal for you or poll workers during a pandemic.

How to register to vote in Idaho

You've got a few options available for registering as an Idaho resident. For each and every one of those options, you must be at least 18 years-old, a United States citizen, have lived in Idaho for at least 30 days prior to Election Day, and not be incarcerated for a felony. (In the state, your voting rights are restored when you complete your sentence, probation, and parole.)

You have the option of registering online or filling out a paper registration, which can be mailed in or returned by hand to your county clerk's office. If you wish to register online, you need to have a current and valid driver's license or identification card issued by the Idaho Department of Motor Vehicles. If you do not have that, you will need to fill out a paper registration. 

If you are registering the day of the election or even voting in-person on the day of the election, you will need to present an ID. Here are the forms of identification that are accepted in Idaho. Without an ID, registered voters have the option to sign a Personal Identification Affidavit.

If you'd like to make sure that you're registration has been received, you can check your registration status at IdahoVotes.gov.

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Idaho?

Early voting begins October 13 in Idaho. There will be some variation on times by county, so you should check with your county clerk's office for exact information on when and where you're able to vote early. However, all early voting will end by 5pm on the Friday before the election. 

Can I vote by mail?

Idaho allows voting by mail through absentee voting. 

How to request an absentee ballot or mail-in ballot in Idaho

Qualified voters are allowed to request an absentee ballot to be returned by mail or in-person. That absentee ballot can be requested online but will require a valid Idaho driver's license number and the last four digits of your social security number. Those numbers allow the state to match your request with your registration.

Alternatively, you can request an absentee ballot by printing and filling out this form. (You can also get the form from the county clerk's office.) However, you must make your request for an absentee ballot before the 11th day prior to the election. You can cast your absentee ballot in-person "at the absent elector's polling place (usually the county clerk's office)" until 5pm the Friday before the election, according to the state's voting portal.

"Absentee ballots for most voters will start going out on September 30," Phil McGrane, Ada County Clerk, told Boise State Public Radio. "And so, people should start to see them in their mailboxes on October 3rd or October 5th, right around that weekend."

Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it’s counted?

You can head to the Secretary of State's site to see the status of your ballot

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

There are ways you can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 if you plan to vote in person at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued safety recommendations for voters -- all of which are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and others.

Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its official election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them. This is where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Use it after you touch the voting equipment or any other equipment at your precinct. If you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried before casting your ballot or touching any of the equipment present.
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't at its busiest. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is or making a plan to vote early in the dat.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. Knowing who you plan on voting for in each race will save you time inside the polling station.

It all boils down to using your common sense. 

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