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As Idaho voters head to the polls, Ada County’s election official visits Morning Edition

Ada County Elections
Polls in Idaho are open until 8 p.m.

Election Day 2022 is already on pace for a higher-than-normal midterm turnout, but Ada County election officials have a detailed operations plan, beginning with thousands of poll workers, and then dozens more to process 38,311 absentee ballots as of Monday, nearly twice as many as a traditional midterm election.

“We have people working long shifts. They've started yesterday with processing some of the absentee ballots,” said Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Trent Tripple. “Today we'll be scanning them and actually counting them, and that's an all-day process.”

There are 197 precincts, 185 polling places and 3,500 workers in Ada County. So far, 20,184 voters cast their ballots during early voting, in addition to the absentee ballots.

As Idaho voters began heading to the polls, Tripple visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview his busiest, and most important, day of the year.

“I would ask that people show up at the polls today and that they thank a poll worker. They're your neighbor, they're the people that you go to church with, that you see in the grocery store. Your kids go to the same schools with them.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice November 8th, 2022. And it all comes down to this. We have made it to Election Day - America's great experiment in democracy continues. To be sure, a number of people may have already cast a ballot, but voters in every corner of Idaho are joining the nation today and participating in the midterm elections. So, with so much at stake, we are fortunate to get a few minutes this morning with Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Trent Tripple, who will oversee Idaho's largest election operations. Trent, happy Election Day.

TRENT TRIPPLE: Thank you, George. Appreciate it.

PRENTICE: Can you give us a sense of what will be happening today… in particular, with the protection and the management of all of those absentee ballots?

TRIPPLE: You bet. We've been working hard for weeks. And so, I hope that folks recognize that that today is a big day, obviously, for folks to show up for an in-person vote. But we've been working behind the scenes to prepare for today as well. With early voting and absentee voting. We put a lot of hours in to this and we're excited for today to go smoothly. We've got 197 precincts that we've stood up over the last couple of days and they're ready to receive voters today. We have about 3500 workers that will be working those 197 precincts. We've already received 43,000-ish absentee ballots that we are in the process, and we'll be scanning those today so that we don't delay results like it has happened in the past in other states. We're hoping that with the smooth process of the election today, with folks showing up in person, that will be able to possibly start announcing some results, some early results around 915 this evening, and then about every 15 to 25 minutes after that. We'll be giving updates as we continue to get polls back in.

PRENTICE: Paint a word picture - you have all of your folks at precincts; and then you have this other team, right?  Working at the election office with those absentees?

TRIPPLE: That's correct. With that many absentee ballots, we have a team of about 50 to 60 people that are working long shifts. They've started yesterday with processing some of the ballots. Today we'll be scanning them and actually counting them, counting the votes from those absentee ballots. And that's an all-day process. We've got two different sets of teams working in shifts. We're really dedicated to trying to get the results for people, hopefully by midnight tonight, having everything in. But we'll see how things go.

PRENTICE: 40,000-plus absentees, that's a pretty high number for a midterm.

TRIPPLE: Yes, it is a very high number for midterm. It's about twice as many as we've seen in the past in a similar type election.

PRENTICE: One more time… how many polling places in Ada County?

TRIPPLE: Well, there's 197 precincts. Some of those precincts are co-located. So, we have about 185 different locations that we're standing up. And some of those, again, have two precincts operating out of them.

PRENTICE: And there might have been a shift due to the census… so people can verify where their polling place is.

TRIPPLE: Yes, absolutely. Online. Go to AdaCounty.Idaho.gov, find where to vote, dropdown menu, and put your address in and it'll tell you exactly where your precinct location is to vote today.

PRENTICE: I'm always curious about how many variations of ballots there may be in Ada County.

TRIPPLE: The last election we had… with the primary…we had hundreds of variations because of different party affiliation. Fortunately for a general election, we can narrow that down because most people are getting the same. Well, everyone's getting the same ballot at a precinct. And so, for this general election, we only have about 205 variations of the ballot. And that's and that's largely due to the Kuna fire district out in Kuna. We've had some variations in the ballot out there, but most people will be seeing the same ballot with their specific legislative district races on them.

PRENTICE: This is a rare moment for us to talk about finding good people and keeping good people, which is to say, your colleagues. These are… well, these are interesting times for people in your line of work. So, can you talk a little bit about keeping a smile on your face, but yet being confident and supportive and professional and letting people know that it's not only safe, but it's the right thing to do to vote today.

TRIPPLE: Absolutely. You know, we're very fortunate here in Idaho. The vast majority of people here feel secure in the elections that we have here. And so, we work really hard to keep good people working at the elections to make sure that people have trust in the system. We've been recruiting heavily for months, and we've got a really good cadre of people to help us with those polls. I would ask, though, that people show up at the polls today that they thank a poll worker, they're your neighbor, they're the people that you go to church with that you see in the grocery store. Your kids go to the same schools with them. They're dedicating and sacrificing some of their time in order to carry out a safe, free and secure election. And so, as you show up to the polls, thank them, they're doing a great service for us and for everyone out here in the community.

PRENTICE: And indeed, because we've got two time zones in Idaho and folks in northern Idaho will still be at the polls when the polls close here in southern Idaho. Again, just as a simple reminder to our listeners, that is why we'll get returns after 9:00 PM here in southern Idaho, right?

TRIPPLE: That's correct. Well, the polls will close at 8:00, obviously local here, but we won't release results, at least the first initial results until about 915. And to keep in mind that first initial result posting will largely be absentee results. And then the same day election results will start coming in. And so, the there's sometimes a different flavor of voter that votes absentee in early versus in person on Election Day. And so you'll see sometimes based off the results of when they're posted, things will jump up and down on those.

PRENTICE: So, fire up the coffee pot. Here we go. Trent Triple is Ada County's chief deputy clerk. Trent, best of luck today. We look forward to talking to you in the days ahead. But nothing but good wishes and safety for you and your colleagues today.

TRIPPLE: Thank you, George. I look forward to seeing everyone out at the polls today.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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