Linn County Auditor Joel Miller is more upbeat about the turnout prospects for the Nov. 5 city elections, particularly in Cedar Rapids.
Miller said on Wednesday that the traffic of voters requesting and casting absentee ballots or voting early at his office before Election Day has him thinking that the voter turnout in Cedar Rapids will reach the 27 percent turnout level of the 2009 city election.
Two weeks ago, he thought only about 20 percent would participate.
His new assessment comes after the number of people who have voted early by absentee ballots or at his office on Wednesday surpassed the total number that did so in countywide city elections in 2009, the last time the most populous of the county’s cities, Cedar Rapids, elected a mayor and five other council members.
In 2009, 1,703 voters voted early in the cities of Linn County, and by late Wednesday afternoon, 2,099 already had done so and another 499 people had requested an absentee ballot but had not yet returned it, Miller said.
The 2009 vote in Cedar Rapids featured something this year’s election doesn’t seem to offer — that is, a well-contested mayoral race. Ron Corbett defeated then at-large City Council member Brian Fagan four years ago.
This year, though, Miller expected a healthy voter turnout because the metro area cities Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins and Fairfax are voting as a block to try to extend the local-option sales tax. This time they are trying to extend it for 10 years.
The city of Cedar Rapids also has a mayor’s race and five other council races on the ballot, four of which are contested, Miller said.
“Statistically, it looks like we’re doing OK (with early voting),” he said. “But my gut doesn’t tell me that. I just don’t feel the enthusiasm. I can’t explain it.”
Miller said he figures that most people have made up their mind about the tax vote, but he suspected some are still trying to figure out who they are going to vote for in races for City Council.
Seven people but just one incumbent, for instance, are competing for two at-large council seats in Cedar Rapids, he said.
Voters can request an absentee ballot at Miller’s office by calling 892-5300. Those ballots must be postmarked by the end of the day Monday.
Voters also can vote at Miller’s office in the county’s Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, on Thursday, Friday and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.