Election officials are reporting moderate to strong voter turnout in Iowa on this Election Day.
Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald sent more voting equipment to some Des Moines-area precincts this evening to deal with the afterwork “rush hour” at polling stations. “It’s a very long ballot. We are getting more voting booths at different locations that are seeing a bottleneck and working through those issues,” Fitzgerald says. “But we want to make sure that everybody’s vote counts today.”
Fitzgerald is urging potential voters to wait in line rather that leave their polling place and try to come back later, as the polls close at 9 p.m.
Carolyn Roberts voted this morning at a church on the east side of Des Moines and she’s rarely seen so many voters at her polling site. “We’ve been in this after for 45 years, so we try to get in each time and vote,” Roberts says. “Usually I’m about (voter) number 23 or 28, and today I’m 89.”
Poll worker Peggy Whitaker says things were hopping this morning at her precinct just west of downtown Des Moines. “We had a line outside waiting to come in to vote,” she says. “And we have nine booths and all nine booths have been filled.” There was a mid-morning lull at Whitaker’s precinct, however.
The top election official in Polk County says turnout in Iowa’s largest county could be as high as 65 percent, which would eclipse 2006 voter participation levels during the last midterm election. Jamie Fitzgerald, the Polk County Auditor, says by four o’clock this afternoon, about 40 percent of eligible voters had either cast a ballot at a precinct today, or voted early by absentee ballot.
“Which is extremely high for an off-year (election) considering a good turnout is usually about 50 to 55 percent,” Fitzgerald says. “We still think we’re on target for the 60 to 65 percent turnout we’ve been predicted and voters are out there. Most places still have lines every once in a while.”
Poll worker Vicki Collins says there’s been a steady stream of voters in her precinct in Des Moines. “We’ve had an excellent turnout. We’ve just been bombarded, to be honest with you,” Collins says. “Had lines — normally we don’t have this many, so it’s really been a good thing for us.”
The percentage of eligible voters casting a ballot in Iowa’s smallest county will set a record, surpassing even the turnout of the last presidential election year. Nancy Carmichael is the Adams County Auditor, in charge of elections in the Corning area.
“We’re seeing record numbers. Even in our absentees, we’ve surpassed any of the numbers that we’ve had in the past,” Carmichael says. “We went back to two years ago, and looked at those numbers, and we were approximately 200 voters more this year than two years ago.”
Denise Dolan, the Dubuque County Auditor, says turnout in her northeast Iowa county has been “moderate”.
“We’ve seen some precincts that had a good early morning turnout and then things kind of leveled off,” Dolan says. “We’re kind of waiting to see how things go in the after-work hours.”
Pat Gill is the county auditor in northwest Iowa’s Woodbury County — the Sioux City area. “We’re seeing at least average, maybe above average turnout for a gubernatorial (election),” Gill says. “In Woodbury County, we average 56 percent turnout and that would be about 32,000 voters, so we might be doing a little better than that.”
Linn County election officials say turnout in the Cedar Rapids/Marion area is below the pace of 2006. Radio Iowa spoke this morning with auditors in Pottawattamie and Des Moines Counties, both of whom reported “brisk” turnout in the Council Bluffs and Burlington areas.
The polls close at nine o’clock tonight.
(This story was updated at 5 p.m. with additional information from county auditors and updated again at 7 p.m. with additional information from Polk County.)