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Kootenai County elections office staff take COVID-19 precautions

Poll workers are encouraging voters to practice social distancing in addition to taking additional protective and safety measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Ahead of a historic election, elections staff in Kootenai County are not only anticipating high voter turnout but are also preparing how to handle in-person voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Kootenai County has mailed out more than triple the number of absentee ballots it did during the 2016 election, plenty of North Idaho voters still plan to vote in person. In fact, close to 1,000 people visited the Kootenai County elections office on Monday on the first day of early voting to cast their ballots ahead of time, according to local reports.

Poll workers are encouraging voters to practice social distancing in addition to taking additional protective and safety measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Panhandle Health District has reported rising case numbers and hospitalizations tied to the virus in recent weeks as well.

Plexiglass dividers between poll workers and voters who were registering or verifying their information were noticeable in the early voting area of the county elections office on Monday. Additionally, staff could be seen sanitizing pens after they were presumably used to fill out ballots. Staff were also wiping down manila envelopes that were handling ballots.

Elections office staff on Monday also noted that poll workers were using tablet PCs to verify voter information. Voters were asked to sign the tablets using styluses. The tablets not only provided security and efficiency benefits for the elections office, but also offered a more sanitary option by reducing the amount of paper voters would need to sign.

The safety measures come as Kootenai County has processed a record number of voter registrations ahead of November's election.

"One thing that is very interesting is that for the first time ever Kootenai County has gone over 100,000 registered voters," Kootenai County clerk Jim Brannon told KREM earlier this month. "That is an amazing number for us."