Voter turnout is "steady" today in Iowa according to Secretary of State Michael Mauro. "I’ve heard of no major glitches or problems out there. It seems to me that the operation is working OK," Mauro says. "…If it goes the way it’s going now, we’re going to have a nice election here in Iowa."

Mauro has predicted as many as 80 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots in this year’s election, perhaps the highest voter turnout of any state in the country. "I think it will be, but I’m hearing reports out of Ohio…where they’re thinking 80 percent…Everybody’s saying the same thing. We think we have record turnouts coming this year," Mauro says, "but I have to believe if we get to 75, 80 percent we’ll be right there (at the top) in comparison to the rest of the country."

Mauro was among the first to vote at his home precinct in Des Moines this morning when the polls opened at seven o’clock. Since then, he’s been talking with county auditors to gauge what’s happening around Iowa. "I’m hearing that turnout is steady," Mauro says. "There were some lines but not unmanageable lines early in the morning and since there’s been a consistent amount of voters in most of the polling places throughout the state."

About one-and-a-half million Iowans voted in the 2004 presidential election. "I think we’ll surpass that," Mauro says of this year’s turnout. "We’ve already had over 534,000 early voters, so I think with what we have at the polling places today — and adding in the early voters — we’ll beat our (turnout) number in 2004."

There are more than two million registered voters in Iowa today. A new state law allows Iowans to register to vote on Election Day. The first test of the law was during the Primary Election in June when only 900 Iowans registered to vote at the polls. Mauro doesn’t think many will register to vote today, but there will be some who’ve moved since the last election and need to change their voter registration to another precinct. "We’ll wait to see how that pans out," Mauro says. "I don’t think we’re going to see a big gain in new registrations. You’re going to see new registrations of people moving from one county to another."

Almost 534,000 absentee ballots were cast before today, a 16 percent increase in "early voting" compared to 2004. County election officials and poll workers have begun counting those ballots. "None of them could be counted prior to today," Mauro says. "so what they’re doing — just like the polling places in the counties — they have a precinct board there who’s taking the ballots out of the envelopes and and they’re running them through their voting equipment."

Speaking of equipment, the days of human beings reading the marks on paper ballots is over in Iowa. "All the counties are using the same type of equipment. They are optical scan equipment. At the end of the evening, they’ll run the results tape and then they’ll send that to the county auditor and then the county auditor….will either modem us at the secretary of state’s office or call us in the results," Mauro says. "I’m hoping it will be a quicker night for us."

The polls close at nine o’clock tonight, but Mauro says if you’re standing in line at nine, you will be allowed to vote. "If you’re in line prior to the nine p.m. closing — you know, right up to nine p.m. — you will definitely be allowed to vote in this election this evening," Mauro says.

There’s all sorts of information about voting on the secretary of state’s website —