Idahoans have until Tuesday to request an absentee ballot in this year’s primary elections, which will be conducted entirely through the mail.

While local primary races are largely uncontested, the May 19 primary will determine which candidates face off for statewide U.S. House and Senate seats in November.

Here’s who’s running and how to vote:

Who’s on the ballot

Locally, the primary races on this year’s ballot are largely uncontested. Two District 26 legislators, Sen. Michelle Stennett and Rep. Sally Toone, will face Republican challengers in November: Eric Parker of Hailey will run against Stennett, and William Thorpe of Bliss will challenge Toone. But none of the sitting Democratic legislators in the district have primary opponents.

Commissioner Jacob Greenberg, who holds the District 1 seat on the Blaine County Board of County Commissioners, is seeking re-election as a Democrat. So is Commissioner Dick Fosbury, who holds the District 2 seat. Kiki Tidwell has said she intends to run against Greenberg in the fall as an independent.

Blaine County Sheriff Steve Harkins and Matthew Fredback, who is seeking the prosecuting attorney’s office, are also listed without opponents on the Democratic ballot. They don’t have challengers on the Republican ballot either.

When it comes to statewide offices, Blaine County voters have a wider array of choices. Kevin Rhoades of Boise is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson for the Republican nomination in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, but just one candidate is seeking the Democratic nomination: Aaron Swisher, also of Boise. Two third-party candidates—Pro-Life of Emmett, who is representing the Constitution Party, and Idaho Sierra Law of Pocatello, who is representing the Libertarian Party—will appear on the general election ballot in November, but not on the primary ballot.

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch is also up for re-election this year. He faces no Republican primary challengers, but two Democrats are vying to run against him in November: Jim Vandermaas of Eagle and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan of Plummer. Independent candidate Natalie Fleming of Fruitland and Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz of Coeur d’Alene will appear on the general election ballot only.

Blaine County voters can also cast their votes for three nonpartisan judicial positions. Justices Gregory Moeller and John Stegner, both of Boise, are seeking re-election to their seats on the Idaho Supreme Court. Appellate Court Judge Amanda Brailsford of Boise is also seeking re-election.

Hailey LOT

Voters in Hailey will decide whether to extend the city’s local-option tax for another 30 years. That would apply a 3 percent tax on rental cars and hotel or motel room rates, a 2 percent tax on the retail sale of liquor by the drink, wine and beer, and a 1 percent tax on restaurant food. The money collected would go toward emergency services, city parks, road repair and snow removal, city promotion and economic development, improvements to the town and public transportation.

The ordinance would also allow an additional 1 percent local-option tax to be collected on hotel rooms and rental cars, with the money going toward Friedman Memorial Airport services. If the joint powers agreement authorizing the 1 percent tax to be spent on the airport services dissolves, that money will still be collected, but will go toward general city services.

How to vote

Idaho’s primary elections will look a little different this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: The elections will be conducted entirely through the mail.

“Given the growing number of coronavirus cases in Idaho, it simply was not safe for voters, election workers or the larger community to hold in-person voting for the May primary,” Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said in April, when the format was announced.

While the election date is technically May 19, voters are not required to return their completed ballots by that night. May 19 is, however, the deadline for Idahoans to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot. The Secretary of State’s office has set up a website that allows Idaho voters to request an absentee ballot online. Blaine County ballot requests can be emailed to election@blainecounty.org, mailed to 206 First Ave. S., Ste. 200, Hailey, ID 83333, or faxed to 208-788-5568.

Completed ballots must be received by the Blaine County Election office no later than 8 p.m. on June 2.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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