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The Latest: Idaho State senate race too close to call

November 7, 2018
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Voters wait in line as the polls open at Pierce Park Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Latest on Election Day in Idaho (all times local):

3:10 p.m.

The Idaho 2018 midterm elections are wrapping up with The Associated Press calling the winners and losers of all but one legislative race.

Idaho Sen. Fred Martin, a Republican from Boise’s District 15, faces a likely recount with the unverified vote totals showing him just 6 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Jim Bratnober.

Idaho doesn’t typically doesn’t do automatic recounts, but does allow the loser of a race to request that a recount one be done for free if the difference in votes is less than one-tenth of one percent of the total.

With a total of 17,890 votes in the District 15 State Senate race, the six vote margin is well under the 17-votes-or-fewer threshold for a free recount.

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11:05 a.m.

A write-in campaign by a longtime Republican Idaho lawmaker who lost to a political newcomer in May’s primary has failed.

Rep. Tom Loertscher’s bid to hold onto his House seat fell far short Tuesday against Chad Christensen, a first-time candidate from Ammon who won with more than 80 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

Loertscher of Iona in October received an endorsement from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in his run as an independent in eastern Idaho’s District 32.

Loertscher served nearly 30 years in the Legislature and rose to chairman of the House State Affairs Committee. Otter cited Loertscher’s familiarity with Medicaid as one of the reasons for his endorsement.

Christensen says he ran against Loertscher after growing tired of the incumbent’s tendency to deny hearings for certain bills over the years.

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9:20 a.m.

Republican Sherri Ybarra has won a second four-year term as Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction.

Ybarra, a former teacher and curriculum director who was first elected to the top schools post in 2014, beat Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson, a longtime teacher and Department of Correction board member.

Ybarra spent 17 years as a teacher, district administrator and curriculum director for the Mountain Home School District before seeking higher political office.

The position requires overseeing the state’s public school system. The superintendent of public instruction also serves on the five-member Idaho Land Board, which oversees 2.5 million acres of land to benefit state public schools.

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2 a.m.

The candidates for Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction were fewer than 1,000 votes apart in unofficial returns Wednesday morning, making the race too close to call.

Republican Sherri Ybarra, who was teacher and curriculum director before she was elected to Idaho’s top education post in 2014, is vying for a second term. She faces Democrat Cindy Wilson, a longtime teacher and Department of Correction board member.

The position requires overseeing the state’s public school system. The superintendent of public instruction also serves on the five-member Idaho Land Board, which oversees 2.5 million acres of land to benefit state public schools.

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1:30 a.m.

Idaho voters have rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed race tracks to install slot-like betting machines called historical horse racing terminals.

Lawmakers first approved the instant horse racing machines in 2013 but repealed the law two years later over concerns that they looked too much like casino-style slot machines. That’s when proponents of horse racing and the instant racing terminals launched an effort to bring them back through the ballot initiative.

Opponents have criticized the effort as disingenuous, saying the state shouldn’t give special exemptions to gambling rules to prop up struggling private businesses.

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11:50 p.m.

Idaho voters have approved a ballot initiative that will expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 62,000 Idaho residents who can’t afford health insurance on the state exchange.

The vote means lawmakers must now enact laws to expand Medicaid coverage to adults who currently earn too much qualify but don’t earn enough to get subsidized health insurance coverage on the state health insurance exchange.

Lawmakers have repeatedly shot down legislative efforts to expand Medicaid coverage, and that prompted the citizen ballot initiative effort.

Proponents say expanding Medicaid coverage will bring federal tax dollars home to Idaho and reduce state health costs by reducing the cost of indigent care currently borne by local governments and health care facilities. But opponents claimed the expansion would be bad for the state and pull money from other needs like education or infrastructure.

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11:08 p.m.

Republican Congressman Mike Simpson has won an 11th term representing Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District.

Simpson defeated Democratic challenger Aaron Swisher, a Boise economist, to retain the seat.

Simpson currently sits on the powerful House appropriations committee and is the chairman for the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, and he’s voted multiple times in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

During his campaign Simpson said he opposes amnesty programs for immigrants who are in the United States illegally. He also promised to promote the expansion of nuclear energy for the nation’s energy needs, but said the country still will need traditional energy sources including coal.

Swisher said he was running to create a livable minimum wage and end tax loopholes for wealthy CEOs.

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11 p.m.

Republican Russ Fulcher has won Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, defeating Democrat Cristina McNeil and six other candidates.

Fulcher, a former state lawmaker and real estate broker from Meridian, will replace Rep. Raul Labrador in the U.S. House of Representatives.

During his campaign, Fulcher opposed Medicaid expansion and instead pushed for something he called “patient-centric alternatives for health care,” which he said would include charity care, more tax-free options for health savings accounts and reduced federal health care mandates.

He also said he wants the state to have more control over federal lands and opposed federal regulations on public education policy.

His Democratic opponent supported Medicaid expansion and promised to improve benefits for public school teachers.

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10:45 p.m.

Longtime Republican lawmaker Brad Little has defeated Democratic challenger Paulette Jordan to become Idaho’s next governor.

Little’s win comes as no surprise in the deeply conservative state, despite significant national media attention given to his opponent.

Little has been lieutenant governor since 2009 and has vowed to continue retiring Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s legacy of leading the state’s recent explosive growth.

Opponent Paulette Jordan, a former state lawmaker and member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, was the first woman to earn her party’s nomination in Idaho.

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9:40 p.m.

Idaho Controller Brandon Woolf will retain his job and Julie Ellsworth will be the new state treasurer after both Republicans ran unopposed in Tuesday’s general election.

Woolf since 2012 has been the state’s chief financial officer responsible for paying the bills for each state agency.

Ellsworth was a state representative for 12 years. In her new job she will oversee about two dozen employees who provide financial services for state and local agencies. The current treasurer, Ron Crane, is retiring.

The state treasurer’s office is the banker of money collected by Idaho.

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5:05 p.m.

Idaho officials say yellow warning placards at polling places in college towns are not meant to deter students from voting but simply spell out residency requirements for those seeking to register and vote on Election Day.

The signs raised eyebrows in Rexburg, where some voters said on social media Tuesday that they seemed intimidating. ALCU-Idaho community engagement manager Jeremy Woodson told the Idaho Statesman that the organization is concerned about voter suppression, and students who have lived in the county for at least 30 days can register to vote there.

Idaho Secretary of State Chief Deputy Tim Hurst says the two-page notices have been used for more than a decade in towns with significant college student populations, and notes students can lose residency status in their home states if they register to vote in Idaho.

The notice informs students they shouldn’t be registering to vote where their college is located just because they failed to do so at their “true” home and includes a section of Idaho Code.

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4:20 p.m.

Idaho election officials say high volumes of voters are turning out across the state, but voting is going smoothly.

Idaho Secretary of State Chief Deputy Tim Hurst says the longest lines he’s aware of by late afternoon on Tuesday have been about 15 minutes.

He says many counties are prepared with more ballots than usual for a midterm election and have contingency plans if they do run out.

He says absentee ballots are also up, with some 160,000 this year compared to about 98,000 four years ago.

Voting started at 8 a.m. and goes to 8 p.m.

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11 a.m.

Early voting in Idaho for Tuesday’s contests have already surpassed that of the last two midterm election cycles.

The Idaho State Journal reports that the state recorded 153,781 absentee and early in-person votes as of Monday morning.

And there’s another 14,825 absentee ballots that haven’t yet been returned.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office said this year’s number already trounces the 98,281 absentee votes in 2014 and 91,326 absentee votes in 2010.

This year’s early voter number could even surpass the 2012 presidential election cycle, which netted 164,374 people who voted absentee.

Voter turnout is typically stronger overall when America picks a new commander in chief.

However, the 2018 election numbers pale in comparison to the 2016 presidential election cycle. The state recorded 202,732 absentee votes two years ago.

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7:35 a.m.

Polls open at 8 a.m. across the state, when Idaho voters will line up to cast ballots on several federal, statewide and local races ranging from Congress to city council.

That includes the governor’s race, where Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, is vying against Democratic former lawmaker Paulette Jordan.

The winner could find themselves working with someone from the opposite party in the lieutenant governor’s seat, where Democratic Army veteran Kristin Collum is facing Republican former lawmaker Janice McGeachin.

No matter who is victorious, the winner will be Idaho’s first female lieutenant governor.

The polls will remain open until 8 p.m.

To find a polling place, residents can visit the Idaho Secretary of State’s website, idahovotes.gov.

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