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A new Idaho law could affect who is on your November ballot

A sign for a polling place in Boise says "vote here."
Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio

A law passed by the Idaho Legislature last year may affect who you see listed on your ballot this November.

The law, which took effect in July of 2020, adds cities to the list of entities that don’t have to hold elections if all seats are uncontested. The bill said this already applies to all other local taxing districts in Idaho.

“If there's only one candidate filed, then they simply cancel the election and they issue an election certificate,” said Jason Hancock, the deputy secretary of state.

If there's at least one race in the city, there will still be an election.

“But you're not going to have the races that are uncontested appear on the ballot,” he said.

Cities could choose to still put uncontested races on the ballot, though. In Jerome, for example, there’s a contested city council race, but the mayor, David Davis, is seeking reelection, and is unopposed. To avoid voter confusion, Cy Lootens, the election supervisor, decided to list Davis on the ballot.

The idea behind this legislation is that it could save cities money in the long run.

The city of Hazelton in Jerome County is not holding elections this November because there are only uncontested races. Lootens said it’s not clear how much money will be saved because the county doesn’t have to print ballots and fire up the machines for the city of fewer than 800 people.

More than 70% of the November races in Bonneville County have already been called, according to the Post-Register, because of a lack of challengers. But election clerk Brenda Prudent said there are still county-wide school and fire district elections.

“We don't notice a lot of monetary gain because we have to have our polling places open for the other ones that do have the contested races,” she said.

All regular polling places in the county will be open, but that could be different in future elections, Prudent said.

Hancock said the cancelling of city elections could become fairly common because the vast majority of incorporated cities in Idaho are small, and they’re more likely to have uncontested races.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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