This year, the two propositions on the ballot sparked a lot of interest across Idaho, and the Magic Valley was no exception. Polls were steadily busy from the time the doors opened on Tuesday morning.
The area had seen record turnout for early and absentee voting, up 75 percent this year over the 2014 midterms.
Ken Bohr had to wait in line at a polling place in a church in a rapidly growing neighborhood of Twin Falls. He’s against Proposition 1,for historic horse racing. "I’m not that much for gambling" he said, "and I hate to see Idaho money going to peoples’ pockets in other states."
Bohr was one of several voters skeptical of Proposition 1. Ian Bonner, an Idaho resident for almost seven years, also lined up against Prop 1. "Yeah, it seems kind of scheme-y from everything I could read about it. I think it’s very misleading to call it saving horseracing when very little of it has to do with actual live horses."
Voter Lindsay Ward sees gambling as a slippery slope. "If you allow gambling in this one instance, It could roll over into other areas. The effects it could have on the way of life we enjoy here in Idaho."
But Curtis Buatte disagreed. He supported Prop 1 more as an issue of freedom - for the industry and for individuals. "Well it was just the factor of a business, basically horse racing, needs a little help," he said. "I believe everybody has a free choice whether they want to gamble or not."
And he was sympathetic to Proposition 2 – the expansion of Medicaid. His reasons? Local control. "Yeah, Prop 2," he explained, "I think we’re sending a lot of our tax money to Washington D.C., and a lot of that should be coming back to help the people that need that medical. That way we don’t have to pay for it twice."
Others, like Ken Bohr, saw support for Medicaid expansion as a personal issue: "I’ve known a lot of people, including myself, over the years who couldn’t afford health insurance, didn’t have health care . We need to get better health care coverage in the state of Idaho."
As a whole, Magic Valley voters tend to be reliably Republican. Many cheer on Republican leadership here in the state capitol and in Washington. But some, like Farzad Moradi worry about single party control. "I think this mid term is like the most important election of our lifetime pretty much, you know?" he asked. "I felt like Washington is not in check, you know? And we need to elect people that actually check Washington and make sure, make sure they’re controlling the powers there."
Today, he brought along his mother, uncle, and sister to vote. His sister, Farzaneh, reflected on the power of the democratic process. "It’s having the freedom to choose whatever you want," he said. "It’s our right to vote and if we want to have our freedom then we need to vote."
Twin Falls sales executive Gene Benevidez took it a step further. "Anyone who doesn’t vote they’re cheating themselves and opportunities for their families in the future," he said. "If you care about any of the issues that are currently facing us you need to exercise your right to vote. I’ve always voted, I’m very passionate about what happens to us and our future generations."
No matter where you live, the expectation has always been that mid-term elections are simply less important than presidential election years. But this year, Twin Falls, like the rest of Idaho, and the nation, is changing that narrative.
Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio