News » Citydesk

The Dark Mark


Think back to your days in school: Pulling out that No. 2 pencil—making sure it had the perfect point on one end and a usable eraser on the other—and turning your attention to the row upon row of tiny little bubbles that formed the ever-popular Scantron sheet.

Most of us who attended school anytime after, say, 1980, are uncomfortably familiar with the fill-in-the-bubble, multiple-choice answer sheets used for nearly every standardized test. But apparently the bubbles are causing some consternation among Idaho voters and voting officials.

Ada County has launched the "Make Your Mark Dark" campaign, in an effort to educate voters on how to completely fill in the bubble next to his or her choice. That's right, fill it in. No X's. No check marks.

In May 2008, the county will switch to an optical scan voting system, ending its tenure as one of the last counties in the nation to use the old punch-card method. Cost for the new optical readers is $882,988, which will be paid for with the help of five-to-one matching grants from the federal government.

As part of the training program, the county will hold a series of mock elections, asking voters to answer a series of survey questions at area polling precincts. The questions will give the county the chance to clear two things off its to-do list—they poll residents on a variety of topics facing the county, including satisfaction with services, and which issues concern constituents the most.

The mock election will be held during the Western Idaho Fair at the Ada County Clerk's booth in the exhibit hall. Further mock elections will be held Sept. 10-15 across the county. Faux voting booths will be open in Boise at the Ada County Courthouse, Sept. 10 and 12-13, 8-9 a.m. and 2-3 p.m.; Boise Town Square Mall, Sept. 10-14, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sept. 10-14, and Sept. 15; Boise Public Library, Sept. 10-12, 4-7 p.m.; and Wal-Mart Super Center on Overland Road, Sept. 10-14, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Additional polling will be held in Eagle at the Public Library, Sept. 11-13, 1-4 p.m.; at the Meridian District Library, Sept. 11 and 13-14, 1-4 p.m.; and at the Kuna District Library, Sept. 10, 12 and 14, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

And since no one wants to be accused of going only halfway in a mock election, 5,000 absentee ballots will be sent to a sampling of county voters.

If you're still just not excited enough about "Make Your Mark Dark," the Idaho Potato Commission has granted the county permission to use Spuddy Buddy, that popular tuber mascot, on all promotional materials. Because nothing makes a voter more aware of his or her civic duty than a cartoon potato.