Election officials in Iowa’s largest county have announced the backlog of absentee ballots received by Monday from Polk County residents has been processed. According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s website, that means at least 137,000 absentee ballots in Polk County have been tabulated.
Results from all counties will be announced after the polls close at 9 p.m. The final numbers on early voting aren’t yet known, but it appears around a million Iowans will already have cast a ballot before today.
AARP state director Brad Anderson says 65 percent of Iowans who voted early were age 50 or older.
“To put that into context, we surpassed the 2016 early vote numbers for 50+ voters more than three weeks ago,” Anderson says, “so the number of people participating early is incredible.”
The percentages are calculated based on publicly available voter registration data from the Secretary of State’s office. Nearly 400,000 Iowans who requested absentee ballots were above the age of 65. While it’s not unusual for this age group to vote by absentee, Anderson says polling g suggests this block of voters could turn out to be “swing” voters in 2020.
The president of the Iowa Association of County Auditors issued a statement on Sunday evening, saying even though this is an unprecedented year due to the pandemic and the volume of early voting, county auditors “are positioned to deliver this Election in the same manner as they have for years, providing all citizens of Iow a safe, fair, timely and accurate election.”
Mahaska County Auditor Sue Brown says around 44 percent of all registered voters in her county cast ballots before Election Day.
“We have 6,603 who have voted early or voted by absentee,” Brown says. “We have around 15,000 total voters registered, so you can see that’s high turn-out for early voting.”
Curbside voting — just outside a voter’s precinct — has been an option for disabled or frail voters in the past — and this year Iowans who have Covid-19 or may have been exposed are encouraged to choose that option if they are voting today. Linn County Auditor Joel Miller says some voters in his county have told election officials they’ve been tested for Covid.
“It’s a very inefficient process,” Miller says, “but it’s the most safe process, aside from vote by mail.”
Epidemiologists say in-person voting today is the equivalent of going to the grocery store in terms of safety. Miller says precinct election officials have been trained in cleaning protocols.
“We need to be cautious and wash the pens and the clipboard and disinfect stuff,” Miller says.
Iowans who wish to vote at the curb, outside their precinct, are to either call their county auditor or have someone else go inside to notify a precinct worker that they need a ballot delivered to their vehicle.
At mid-morning, no major snags have been reported by election officials in the state. In Sioux City, this voter was surprised by his experience at the polling site in the Morningside College Library.
“Normally when I vote, I may be the 7th or 8th person to vote. On a heavy turn-out, I might be the 20th or 23rd person to vote. Today I was the 107th,” he said. “People are taking an interest and they want to be part of where our country’s going and they’re going out and voting and there’s no way you can fault that at all.”
This voter cast his ballot in the Sioux City East High School gymnasium.
“A lot of help there and it was the fastest moving thing that I had ever seen,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Joe Lancello, KBOE, Oskaloosa; Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City and Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Payne)