Linn County residents could start voting in as little as two weeks on bringing casino gambling to the county.
County supervisors this afternoon went through the formality of receiving and verifying 15,491 signatures on petitions circulated by Vote Yes Linn County, keeping the local investor group's casino proposal on track for a March 5 special election. That means the county may begin distributing absentee ballots Jan. 24, said Tim Box, the county's deputy elections commissioner.
"We're going to try our hardest to get get absentee ballots available" by that date, Box said.
Casino opponents could delay a vote by successfully challenging individual signatures, or the petition itself, by next Tuesday. If that doesn't happen, state law requires county supervisors to call an election by Jan. 18. The election must be held within 46 days of that date.
The petition, with signatures, is posted on the county elections web site for inspection. It may also be viewed at the county auditor's office at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW.
"We've already had a couple people look at it," Box said minutes after supervisors received the signed petitions.
Assuming the petition and signatures pass any challenges, other significant dates on the special election timeline, as set by state code:
- Feb. 1: deadline for petitions for satellite voting.
- Feb. 22: last day to pre-register to vote.
- March 1: last day to request a mailed absentee ballot.
- March 4: last day to vote absentee at auditor's office.
- March 12: canvass of votes.
The final decision on issuing the state's 15th casino license is up to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, but county approval is required for a license. (The state also has three Native American casinos).