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BOISE — Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said Monday afternoon that the governor won’t be delaying the May 19 primary election, but it’ll go all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus.

“He is not going to delay it,” Denney told the Idaho Press. “We still have some things to iron out about exactly what we will be trying to do … and I can tell you we’re going to push very, very hard for as much absentee as we can, so that we don’t have people having to be in contact with each other.”

Gov. Brad Little’s office confirmed this decision in a press release later that afternoon and said Little will issue a proclamation addressing the election in the coming days.

The election will be conducted by mail, the governor’s announcement states, noting “the move is necessary after it became clear that sufficient polling places and poll workers could not be obtained for the election.”

There were legal impediments to delaying the election for a month, as Denney had requested.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s legally impossible, but there was a question whether he had the authority to delay it or not,” Denney explained. “By not delaying it, it takes one more potential challenge off the table.”

Denney sent a request to Gov. Brad Little on Friday to delay the May 19 primary election at least until June 16, and to close all polling locations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The delay was requested to give every registered voter an opportunity to request an absentee ballot. Denney said his request came after several meetings between his office and Idaho’s 44 county clerks to find alternatives to in-person voting for the May 19 primary election.

“The recommendations by federal, state, and local public health authorities to limit public interactions makes the use of traditional polling places on Election Day extremely hazardous if not logistically impossible,” Denney said in his letter to Little.

In order to expedite the process for Idahoans to request their absentee ballot, the Secretary of State’s Office has made online absentee ballot requests available for those registered electors with an Idaho driver’s license or ID card, the Idaho Press previously reported. Visit to request your absentee ballot. Downloadable request forms are available for those without the requirements for the online system. Ballot request forms can also be obtained from county clerks offices and websites.

Denney said, “We’re going to start working very diligently” to get the word to Idaho voters about requesting an absentee ballot. A federal grant under the Help America Vote Act specifically to help with COVID-19-related issues will help, he said.

“We intend to do a couple of mailings inviting people to request an absentee ballot. And I suspect that there will be some PSAs and that kind of stuff that we put out as well to get people to go that way,” the secretary of state said. “Really, in this environment, it’s the smart thing to do.”

He said with the many ballot choices within counties, districts and precincts for Idaho’s primary election, going all-absentee can be “a headache,” but with COVID-19, not doing so would be “even more of a headache.”

The May 19 ballot includes primary races for the 105 seats in the Idaho Legislature, three congressional seats, a number of county offices and school district measures.

Moving forward, Little and Denney will work with the attorney general and Idaho’s 44 county clerks to refine the absentee-voting process, according to the governor’s press release. That will include setting appropriate deadlines for registering to vote, requesting a ballot be sent to your home, and returning the ballot.

In the release, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Kristina Glascock, Twin Falls County clerk and president of the Idaho Association of County Recorders and Clerks, expressed support.

“Idaho’s county clerks appreciate the move to absentee to keep voters and poll workers safe,” Glascock stated. “We are prepared to carry out this election and ensure the people of Idaho can exercise their right to vote.”

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Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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