The May 19 mail-in primary: What you need to know

Last week, Gov. Brad Little and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced that the May 19 primary for state and local offices will be conducted entirely by mail-in absentee ballot, a safety measure due to the coronavirus.

Although Little opted not to change the date of the primary as some states have done, deadlines to register and request a ballot have been extended through Election Day, effectively preserving the same-day registration that is normally available at the polls, and ballots received up to two weeks after that date will be counted, delaying the reporting of the results.

So how do you take part?

How do I get a ballot?
If you are already registered to vote, the Secretary of State’s office will mail you an absentee ballot request form if you have not already requested a ballot. If you’re not registered to vote, you will need to register to request a ballot.

How do I register to vote?
You can register online through or in-person at your county clerk’s office. You can register to vote through Election Day. You can then request an absentee ballot, either online at, in-person or via mail. (The request form is available for download at

Download PDFLittle primary proclamation
Will any polling places be open?

No, and that includes the usual early voting sites. All voting will be by mail.

When will we know who won?
Two weeks later than we usually do. Since voters have until 8 p.m. May 19 to register to vote or to ask for an absentee ballot, mail-in ballots that are received through 8 p.m. on June 2 will be counted. No results will be released until 9 p.m. Mountain Time.

What’s on the ballot?
It’s a primary, so the competitive races are for offices where more than one candidate is running for a party’s nomination, although the names of candidates running for their party’s nomination unopposed will be on their party’s ballot anyway. Some school districts also will have school bonds or levies on the ballot.

Democrats statewide will choose between Paulette Jordan and Jim Vandermaas as their party’s nominee to take on U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, while eastern Idaho Republicans will choose between incumbent U.S. Rep Mike Simpson and Kevin Rhoades, the winner of which will face Democrat Aaron Swisher in November.

There aren’t any competitive Democratic legislative primaries in eastern Idaho. Republicans in districts 8, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 will have choices to make, both in primaries to fill soon-to-be-vacated legislative seats and in some races where a challenger is taking on an incumbent. There are also numerous county-level primaries, including, on the Republican side, for sheriff and a county commissioner seat in Bonneville County.

Both parties will also have local precinct committee positions on the ballot.

The Republican primary is limited to registered Republicans, although unaffiliated voters can register Republican when they vote as such. Registered Democrats as well as unaffiliated voters can take part in the Democratic primary.

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