Most area absentee ballot requests coming from registered Democrats

Auditors say early voting helps cut down election-day lines

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April 1, 2014 | 12:22 am

Surrounding county auditor's offices have received thousands of requests for absentee ballots as election day gets closer.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said the pace of requests for absentee ballots is about double the rate of four years ago. Miller said as of Sept. 11, his office is seeing about 72 percent of requests coming from registered Democrats, 6 percent coming from registered Republicans and 22 percent coming from people without party affiliation, including military and overseas.

Nearby counties are seeing a similar turnout. Dubuque, Black Hawk and Johnson County are seeing 70 to 76 percent of their requests coming from registered Democrats, 4 to 7 percent from registered Republicans and 18 to 24 percent from registered no-party voters, including military and overseas.

Any registered voter in Iowa can request an absentee ballot through his or her county auditor's office, and Iowa counties will be issuing absentee ballots on Sept. 27, more than a month before election day Nov 6. Satellite voting will begin in October at various locations and times, depending on the county.

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett believes early voting helps ease election day pressures and wait times tremendously.

"In 2008 when we had a record number of voters, 55 percent voted absentee ballot before election day," Slockett said. "It's helpful to the people who vote on election day, in terms of cutting down the lines and making it easier for them to vote."

"The biggest cost on election day is paying poll workers," Slockett said. "Without early voting, we would have to hire twice as many or more. It's also not convenient for everyone to vote on a particular day of the week if they have business, sick kids or a final."

Absentee ballots can be hand delivered to the auditor's office until 9 p.m. Nov. 6, and if mailed, must be received by noon on Nov. 12.

Votes will not be counted if not received by the deadlines.

"You have to draw the line somewhere. That's where Iowa law draws the line," Slockett said.

Dubuque County Deputy Commissioner of Elections Tom O'Neill echoed Slockett, stating ballots have to be postmarked the day before election day, or hand delivered.

"We go through all the effort to see them out," O'Neill said. "We would like to see them counted."

Slockett and other auditors around the state noticed many ballots do not have postmarks on them. O'Neill notes the Post Office does not have to postmark them.

"The voters should keep that in mind," Slockett said. "Johnson County has found this to be happening nationwide. Ballots received all over the country don't have postmarks on them."

According to the Federal Assistance Voting Program website, "Postmarks are used to determine if voting materials have been mailed by state deadlines. Due to varying mail pick up times, the day you 'mail' your election mail may not be the day the postal facility postmarks it."

The website suggests asking the mail clerk to "hand stamp the election material so that a date is clearly visible. In certain situations a handwritten postmark and signature from you or a notarizing official may be sufficient."

"I think voters should be aware of this and try to get them in early," Slockett said.

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