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Elections, elections, elections

Hold the presses

Another election season is almost past, but it's not over yet. There are still Election Day parties to be had and plenty of results to pour over on Nov. 5. Here at BW, we will be up late on election night, compiling the results and bringing you vivid depictions of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. So pick up next week's BW for complete, or partial (depending on how quickly the counting goes) results.

And if you can't wait until Wednesday, stop by the Modern Hotel and Bar on Tuesday, Nov. 4, anytime after the polls close, and say hey. We will be there with CNN blaring and laptops blazing, monitoring the results and taking advantage of Idaho's recent repeal of Election Day prohibition. (In case you've forgotten, until this year it was verboten to buy alcohol on Election Day in the Potato Vodka State.)

The Modern is at 1314 W. Grove St. And polls close at 8 p.m. in case you are a last-minute kind of voter.

Last-minute kind of voters

Speaking of last minute, to the 26,000 people who requested an absentee ballot from Ada County and have not yet sent it back, the county's chief deputy clerk says: "Do not waste any time."

Not that Chris Rich, who asked Ada County voters to consider voting absentee this year and was then flooded with some 67,000 absentee ballot requests, is rushing you. Rich recommends people first decide who they are going to vote for, and then, uh, VOTE!

The county had gotten almost 41,000 ballots back as of Oct. 27. Statewide, some 80,000 people have already voted.

Absentee ballots need to be stamped and voters must sign the back of the envelope. The ballots can also be returned to the early voting location at 7180 Barrister Dr. on or before Nov. 3, and if you are really last-minute, they can be taken to the Ada County Courthouse, 200 W. Front St., on Election Day prior to the close of polls at 8 p.m.

It's Obama (kids say)

Sen. Barack Obama won an early poll in Idaho, a secured, online vote among the state's high-school students.

Obama won Idaho's first statewide high school mock election by 105 votes, earning 2,240 votes to Sen. John McCain's 2,135. Ralph Nader polled third followed by the other two candidates on the Idaho ballot, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin.

Fifty-four high schools across the state participated in this exercise on Oct. 23 and 24. Some of the students are also old enough to vote in the actual election.

"This mock election has served as an important learning experience for Idaho students," said Tom Luna, Idaho's Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction. "I encourage all students who took part in this event to remember the lessons they have learned about the importance of voting and carry these lessons with them throughout their adult lives."

In a sign that either young voters are willing to vote for the candidate, not the party, or that they just pick the cooler, international-sounding names, Republican Rep. Bill Sali also won the polling by 160 votes, defeating Democrat Walt Minnick.

Mike Simpson beat Deborah Holmes 66 to 34 percent in the Second Congressional District and Jim Risch would be Idaho's senator today, if it were up to the state's high-school students.

Idaho students also voted on mock ballot measures, favoring a lower drinking age by a slim margin: 53 to 47 percent, and approving a repeal of Idaho's food tax with 73.5 percent of the vote.

The State Department of Education attempted a similar election two years ago, but according to one source, the system was hacked and the event canceled. This year, the Secretary of State's Office ran the polling and assures BW it was not hacked.

Palm Beach County, Idaho

As the U.S. heads into another huge presidential election, Idaho has the distinction of being the only state still clinging to the old punch card ballot.

Eight Idaho counties still use punch cards, according to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, where voters puncture their ballot with a sharp poker and pray that the numbers line up and the chads don't hang. No other state in the union still has punch card ballots, Ysursa said.

After the 2000 election, you may recall, the accuracy of punch card ballots in Florida called the results of the entire presidential race into question. Soon after, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. One of the provisions of the act was to encourage counties to move away from the punch card and the Feds provided money for upgrades.

But Bingham, Bonneville, Franklyn, Minidoka, Clearwater, Jefferson, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties still use the old systems.

"We really like it or we would have changed it," said Bobbie Jockumsen, chief election judge in Bonneville County. "Why fix something that's not broken?"

Idaho did get a grant to upgrade voting systems in every county, but some counties have opted not to ditch the punch cards just yet. Because of the relatively low numbers of ballots in Idaho, each punch card can be examined for hanging chads or dimples or pregnant chads, Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said.

"The difference between us and Palm Beach is they have more punch cards in Palm Beach than we have in the state of Idaho," Hurst said.

Hurst also said Idaho counties have pre-defined what constitutes a valid vote.

And there's a write-in

In last week's issue, BW took a look at the Second Congressional District race, highlighting citizen-candidate Debbie Holmes' uphill battle against Rep. Mike Simpson.

But there is also a write-in candidate in the race. Gregory Nemitz, who challenged Simpson in the GOP primary in May, is running on the anti-bailout ticket and the Ron Paul coattails ticket.

Nineteen candidates have also qualified as official write-ins for president, including old Keith Russell Judd, who managed to get himself on Idaho's Primary Election ballot in May, despite his incarcerated-in-Texas status. Also looking for votes is the Rev. MerePeace, of the Boise-based MerePeace Party, and candidates from Twin Falls, Post Falls and Rigby. Cynthia McKinney, who is the official Green Party candidate this year, is also running a write-in campaign in Idaho.

Four legislative districts have write-in candidates: Karin Ducote in Coeur d'Alene's District 5, David Mosher in Lewiston's District 7, Ralph Mossman, of Driggs, in District 31 and Aaron Banks in Boise's District 19. Banks filled out the paperwork to run as a write-in against Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart.

And another write-in for president of the United States: an Incline Village, Nevada, man named Santa Claus.

Has Mr. Claus met Mr. Pro-Life yet?

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, 4,191 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,388 in combat and 803 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,757. In the last week, three U.S. soldiers died.

Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,041 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 88,656 and 96,766.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $566,324,773,215

Source: costofwar.com

—Nathaniel Hoffman

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