COEUR d'ALENE - Some Kootenai County residents revealed on Wednesday that the county Elections Department wasn't following Idaho procedure in disclosing write-in candidates' names at polling stations.
Jeff Ward, president of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, voiced complaints Wednesday that poll workers were providing lists of write-in names to voters.
That's akin to giving out campaign literature, Ward said.
"In essence, providing that information is a violation of state code," said Ward, adding that he knew one individual who had walked out of the elections office with such a list. "They can't hand out campaign material in an election place."
Members of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee were looking into addressing the situation with the Secretary of State's office, Ward added.
County Clerk Dan English verified early Wednesday afternoon that polling stations have been offering a single list of write-in candidates for voters to peruse briefly, only if they requested it first and then returned it before voting.
"They look at them (the lists) and do their business, but they don't take it away," English said, adding he had gotten approval from an employee at the Secretary of State's Office.
But as it turns out, no lists are allowed.
Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, said that providing a list of write-in candidates at polling stations is against state policy.
"That's akin to electioneering at the polls," Hurst said. "That's the challenge that write-in candidates have, is getting the word out. People need to know before they go to the polls."
Poll workers are only allowed to divulge write-in candidates' names vocally - and at moderate volume - if voters ask, he said.
"That policy has been there as long as I know of," Hurst said.
The state office contacted Kootenai County about correcting its methods on Wednesday afternoon after fielding a complaint, he added.
There is no penalty for violating the policy, Hurst said. The state office just instructs on correcting the situation.
English said he wasn't surprised to hear the rules were more rigid.
"You just have to be cautious. You don't want to do anything that seems to favor one candidate over the other," he said. "I don't know if there's a huge difference (between verbal information and a list), but we'll do exactly what they say."
English believes county poll workers have provided write-in names verbally in past elections, he said.
Write-in candidates file to run in the general election following the primaries. Their names are not included on the ballot, so voters have to pen their names on a blank line.
Athol Republican Howard Griffiths, a write-in candidate and the only challenger to Rep. Phil Hart, said he thinks it is unfair that write-in names aren't more accessible at polling stations.
"I think it's important to let people know, especially when there's an unopposed opponent, that they have a choice," Griffiths said, adding that he lacks funds for advertising.
County Commissioner Rick Currie, running as a write-in against Jai Nelson for the district 2 seat, said he understands the policy.
"I would dearly love them to say, 'Oh, by the way, you've got write-in candidates,' but it wouldn't be right," he said.
Currie is confident that many already know his name, he added, from his plethora of ads, hand-outs and appearances at public forums.
"I get stopped in grocery stores, out pumping gas," he said. "It is a challenge. But anything this important is worth working hard for."