Paper ballots were used this month by nearly 1,300 teachers and faculty in the first round of voting required by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law. Next month, another 34,000 Iowans will vote on union representation in their workplace and they’ll do it by phone or online.

Iowa Public Employment Relations Board administrator Mike Cormack says each eligible voter will get a unique code.

“Just the feasibility of trying to do that many paper ballots in one voting cycle of two weeks and being able to provide proper service to Iowans and get the proper vote tally, it’s just not realistic,” Cormack says. “So that’s why we went to this particular system.”

Last night, Corwack’s agency reported the results of voting in 13 Iowa school districts and community colleges where teachers and faculty voted to re-certify their local unions. Iowa State Education Association president Tammy Wawro says her members understand what’s at stake.

“I anticipated that we would win, but to see some of these numbers come back.”

Only 27 ballots were returned with “no” votes and all of the recertification votes passed by at least 79 percent.

“Those are really good numbers to start setting the pace for what we have, our 213 elections in October,” Wawro says.

Those 213 local bargaining units are represented by the Iowa State Education Association. More than 250 other local bargaining units that represent public sector workers will be voting from October 10th through the 24th as well. Cormack says by opting for electronic voting in this next round, the Public Employment Relations Board will avoid the possibility of paper ballots not being mailed in on time.

“We do by electronic, telephonic means it’s 24/7 voting,” Cormack says, “so every person who votes in that two-week time period will have their vote recorded.”

The new state law that took effect in February requires a vote among members of a bargaining unit right before union representatives start new contract talks with management. It means these “recertification votes” must happen every two or three years. Under the previous law, recertification votes were only held if members of the bargaining unit petitioned for a vote in hopes of dissolving the union.