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New absentee voter box at the courthouse

by EMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | May 9, 2024 1:05 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Boundary County Clerk Glenda Poston is assuring voters that security steps are in place to ensure the security of a new outdoor voter absentee ballot drop box outside the county courthouse. 

Prior to the new box, which was installed the second week of April, the absentee ballot box was a wooden box chained outside the clerk’s office and within view of the bailiff's desk. However, since the box could only be accessed by walking up two sets of stairs, it was not accessible to those with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Poston said the idea of an outdoor ADA-complaint voter drop box had been kicked down the road for several years. 

In response to criticism that the box was redundant due to the proximity of the Bonners Ferry post office, Poston said that the box is better for those voting absentee, as unlike the mail which is routed to Spokane, ballots dropped off at the courthouse drop box are collected and time stamped by the end of the day. 

Elections Clerk Cherry Grainger said if someone mails in their absentee ballot on Election Day, the ballot will not make it to the courthouse in time as mail is rerouted to Spokane and it is two to three business days before it comes back to Boundary County. 

She estimated that each election, half a dozen absentee ballots arrive after the election, and therefore are not counted. 

Absentee ballots are collected from the drop box each day and time stamped. Poston watches the elections clerk collect the ballots. Each absentee ballot has a unique barcode which is scanned the day received. 

Grainger said when someone comes to vote early, their ballot receives a barcode as well, which is scanned and manually entered as an identification. 

Poston said absentee ballots are being reconciled as they come in, but will not be opened until election day. 

As on Tuesday, 702 absentee ballots have been issued with 407 returned. 

Poston said Boundary County has always balanced ballots and will continue to do so. 

The ballot box is open from dawn to dusk and is closed nightly with a double locked plate which prevents any ballots from being dropped off. Additionally, the box has a camera. 

Outside from absentee voting, the ballot box will be removed and stored, and replaced with a bench. 

During early voting, voters can still vote at the courthouse, but have to return ballots to the clerk’s office staff, rather than the absentee ballot box outside. 

Grainger added that new area residents need to have an Idaho driver's license to vote with their new address or a utility bill providing their address in order to vote on election day.

“We do not accept out-of-state licenses,” she said. 

The poll will open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21. Boundary County does not have a central count location, rather ballots are counted at the polling locations.