Fewer voters in several of Idaho’s most populous counties cast ballots on Election Day, suggesting local races again flew under the radar without a galvanizing presidential or gubernatorial election at the top of the ticket to drive people to the polls.
Complete but unofficial election results released by Ada County, the state’s most-populated county, show that 65,141 ballots were cast in this November’s election out of 274,027 registered voters. That yields a turnout of 23.8%.
That’s a significant drop off from the November 2020 general election — with a hotly contested presidential election and legislative races on the ballot — where voter turnout stood at 87.8% in Ada County.
Setting aside 2020 and the presidential election, this year’s Ada County turnout was also lower than in 2019, when a Boise mayor’s race and several other contests were on the ballot. In November 2019, voter turnout was 33.4%, still well above this year’s mark of 23.8%.
Some of the decrease in Ada County turnout could be due to a new local election district law that divided the city into six districts for the first time due to the passage of House Bill 413 during the 2020 legislative session. That means that about half of Boise had contested City Council races to vote on while about half of the city did not have council races to vote on. Previously, all Boise voters could vote in all City Council elections.
Although the new local districting law only affected Boise this year, ballots varied all across the state. Depending on where a voter lives, they might have had a school board race, a local bond or levy question, a mayoral race or a city council race to vote for. But other Idahoans didn’t have anything at all on their ballots because of the way election schedules vary.
At least one Idaho election official was concerned that turnout could be down this year.
“There are several things on the ballots, but it’s also worth noting that a portion of the state won’t have anything to vote for,” Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said in an interview leading up to the election. “That’s one of the challenges, the nature of this election.”
Turnout was even lower in Canyon County this year. Even with an open Caldwell mayoral race on the ballot, just 16,037 ballots were cast from 98,433 eligible voters in the county, according to voter turnout data that Canyon County public information officer Joe Decker released to the Idaho Capital Sun on Wednesday. That means turnout in Canyon County came in at 16.3% this year. That’s down from 78.5% turnout a year ago in the 2020 general election, which included the showdown between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.
In Kootenai County, voter turnout was higher at 35.25%. That’s down from 87.41% turnout in 2020, but it’s up compared to 2019, when turnout came in at just 17.52%, according to historical election results available on Kootenai County’s website.
In eastern Idaho’s Bonneville County, some voters had a contested Idaho Falls mayoral race and city council races to settle, while both the Bonneville and Idaho Falls school districts had school board races up for election. Still, turnout came to 19.74%, unofficial results from Bonneville County show. That’s down from 78.65% turnout in 2020 and also down from the previous election in 2018, when turnout was 63.52%, county election records show.
Originally published Nov. 4 on IdahoCapitalSun.com.