County election officials would start counting so-called "early" votes a day before Election Day if a bill that passed the Iowa House Tuesday evening becomes law.
Several Iowa legislative races were undecided this past Election Night because many absentee ballots hadn’t been counted yet.
Under current law, absentee ballots cannot be counted until Election Day.
Representative Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa, is a retired county auditor. Gaskill says the bill outlines several safeguards for the early counting of those early votes. "And those machines would be secured and no one is allowed to give out that information until the polls have closed and they give out the unofficial totals," Gaskill says.
Most Iowa election officials do prep work before Election Day, like opening absentee ballot envelopes and taking out the so-called "secrecy envelopes" that hold the ballot itself. But they are forbidden by current law to begin counting those votes. Gaskill says with more Iowans opting to cast an "early" vote rather than wait ’til Election Day, it makes sense to give county auditors authority to count those absentee ballots the day before Election Day.
"And they could actually put them into the machines on the day before so they can get a head start," Gaskill says. The bill passed the House on a 76 to 22 vote and now goes to the Iowa Senate for consideration.