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CALDWELL — As health care facilities state and nationwide face shortages of N95 masks and ventilators, the Canyon County Elections Office is facing a shortage of its own: envelopes.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced Monday that the May 19 election would be an all-absentee ballot election, despite a request from the Secretary of State’s Office to postpone the election.

Canyon County Clerk Chris Yamamoto said Tuesday the decision to keep the election in May poses significant challenges to his office. For one, the need for envelopes is greater than ever with an election only available through absentee ballots.

“I have had 10,000 envelopes ordered some time ago and 100,000 ordered more recently, but I have no reason to think I am going to see those orders (in time for the election),” Yamamoto said during a Canyon County elected officials meeting Tuesday.

He said in total, the county needs four envelopes for each voter: one for the first informational letter the county or state will send each voter, inviting them to request an absentee ballot, and then three additional envelopes to send every absentee ballot. One envelope is for the outside packaging, another is a state-issued envelope for the ballot and the third is to send the completed ballot back to the elections office.

Canyon County has 95,000 registered voters, Yamamoto said.

“If we can’t get enough envelopes to get a ballot out to people, then what are we going to do?” he told the Idaho Press after the meeting.

Haley Hicks, elections supervisor for Canyon County, said 4,000 people tried to request an absentee ballot the Secretary of State’s Office website, and it crashed Tuesday.

Yamamoto said the “back end” of the secretary of state’s website for absentee requests is not set up yet, meaning the county does not have access to any voter information from people who have requested absentee ballots.

To request an absentee ballot, people can fill out a form outside the Canyon County Elections Office and drop it into the mail slot at the office, which is closed to the public. They can also request one online at idahovotes.gov.

BALLOT STYLES

Yamamoto said this election is also unique because of how many ballot styles there are. Because it is a primary, there are about 250 ballot styles for Canyon County voters.

“With that many ballots, I need a warehouse to sort all of that out and make sure everyone gets the correct ballot,” Yamamoto said,

The problem with ballot styles and ensuring people receive the correct ballot was the main issue Yamamoto hoped to solve with the $3 million elections equipment the county purchased earlier this year.

With the May 19 election going full absentee, the election’s office will not be able to use the voter equipment in May. They will be able to use their central count machine to count the ballots.

Editor’s note: The Idaho Press, in partnership with Blue Cross of Idaho, is offering free online access to all of our local coronavirus stories. Our ongoing coverage of the Treasure Valley relies on support from our readers. To strengthen local journalism, please consider subscribing at iptoffers.com. For daily updates in your inbox, sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

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