Come on in, the water’s fine.

That’s the word from local elections officials, who say there’s plenty of room at early voting booths for people in Latah and Nez Perce counties who want to avoid the lines on Election Day on Nov. 3.

“I don’t think anyone has had to wait over five minutes,” said Latah County Clerk Henrianne Westberg. “We had about 100 people come in on Saturday. We’ve seen 829 people total, or about 120 per day. It hasn’t been fast and furious.”

Early voting is underway in all 50 states. The process lets people vote in person at the county clerk’s office before Election Day.

Several states have reported massive turnouts, with lines stretching around the blocks and waits of as much as two hours. The presidential election and social distancing concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic have apparently sparked the rush.

That hasn’t been the case in Lewiston, though.

“Where are all these people?” asked Nez Perce County Clerk Patty O. Weeks.

As of Tuesday morning, Nez Perce County had accommodated about 750 early voters, Weeks said. Several polling booths have been set up in the Brammer Building, behind the courthouse, and at times all of them are empty.

Some of that may be because of the large number of absentee ballot requests both counties received. Weeks said Nez Perce County mailed out more than 10,000 absentee ballots, and about 6,000 have been returned so far.

Latah County received nearly 12,000 absentee ballot requests, Westberg said, and almost 7,500 have been returned to date.

“It’s about a 63 percent return rate,” she said. “My goal was to have about 60 percent of the county voting before Election Day. We already have some precincts in Moscow that are over 60 percent.”

Early voting in Nez Perce County is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hours in Latah County are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Westberg said polling booths will also be open this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

People who initially requested an absentee ballot can choose to do early voting instead. If they do that, Westberg encouraged them to bring their absentee ballot and use that, rather than throw it away and pick up a new ballot at the polling station.

“I didn’t order enough ballots for everyone to have two,” she said.

Early voting in Idaho ends at 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208)-791-9168.

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