November 6, 2012

Iowa Voter Turnout Increased from Four Years Ago

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Voters head to the polls in Kalona, Iowa, on election night 2012.

Hayley Bruce/IowaWatch

Voters head to the polls in Kalona, Iowa, on election night 2012.

Iowa experienced a substantial and surprising increase in voter turnout, county auditors told IowaWatch Tuesday night.

“We haven’t had any voter fraud problems but we have had long lines — just because of unexpected turnout.  I just can’t believe how many people we’ve had this time around,” said Denise Fraise, the elections deputy from Lee County.

Auditors were unable to say the exact percentage increase in voter turnout for this election but both Jeannie Bettis of Monroe County and Brooke Kuhlmann of Monona County said they would have more information on Wednesday.

Not only were more ballots cast at polling location but auditors noticed a large increase in absentee ballots as well.

Jones County Auditor Janine Sulzner said absentee voting in her countty was 140 percent higher than four years ago.

The following IowaWatch staff writers contributed to this report: Lyle Muller, Sujin Kim, Joy Chang, Laura Arny, Robert Maharry and Benjamin Moore.

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Earlier version posted at 8:35 p.m., Nov. 6, 2012

Election officials in Iowa were seeing a sharp increase Tuesday in same-day voter registrations, interviews IowaWatch conducted with auditors across the state revealed.

The numbers will not be known for awhile – one or two days, Muscatine County Auditor Leslie Soule, said – but interest in voting early was noticeable.

“Maybe more people know about it,” Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said.

Even smaller counties have seen an increase in same-day voter registration this election cycle.  Auditors from O’Brien, Osceloa, Page, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Taylor, Pocahontas, Wright and Winnebago counties said they have noticed a significant increase compared to past presidential elections.

The smaller counties have had fewer problems getting necessary documentation from people wanting to register in order to vote, the auditors said.

Several college students have registered for their first vote at the polls, and that process has slowed up lines where they are voting, auditors in counties where colleges and universities exist said. Some Coe College students have relied on help from registered voters who can attest that they live in the precinct where they are voting, Miller said.

In Story County, Iowa State University students found it hard confirm if they had already registered for voting or not. Some thought they were but had not, and some who already had registered asked to register again, without realizing that was not necessary, county Auditor Lucy Martin said. College students in Dubuque County also were having difficulties proving their residences, Auditor Denise Dolan said.

In Black Hawk County, the home of the University of Northern Iowa, Auditor Grant Veeder said his office has handed out several provisional ballots to people who just moved into the county. Voters with provisional ballots are allowed to vote, but the votes are not counted until officials verify the voters’ identification and residence.

Voters who did not have new addresses on a driver’s license or photo ID had to take other forms, such as a utility bill for their home, to the polls to prove residency, Veeder said.

But a lot of University of Iowa students registering to vote in Johnson County have not have that kind of documentation, county Auditor Tom Slockett said. Their university and phone bills go to their parents, or they have no bank statement in their own name, he said. Or, they chose not to be listed in the UI student directory, or have no residential lease in their name.

“They have to vote a provisional ballot,” Slockett said. “Then, they have some more time to supply the information to the Auditor’s Office.”

The auditors also said they had detected no one trying to vote illegally. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has made finding, and weeding out, voter fraud as a priority.

“I haven’t seen anything that was remotely related to an imposter or a foreign national,” Miller said referring to voters at the polls in his county.

Plenty of voters had cast ballots before today started. Schultz’s office said 673,124 Iowans, or 34.5 percent of those registered, had voted going into Tuesday. One of every five voters in Freemont County,  for example, voted early.

Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill said about one-half of his county’s registered voters cast ballots before today, creating manageable lines at the polls. “We had so many people vote early we haven’t had many problems today,” Gill said late in the afternoon.

The machine printing labels were down for a hour and a half Tuesday morning at six Pottawattamie County precincts. The problematic label printer was a combination of human error and machine malfunction, county Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake said. “From then, it’s run pretty smoothly,” she said.

About one-third of the county’s registered voters cast early ballots, Drake said.

Three individuals were charged in September with election fraud in Pottawattamie County but Drake said she had not heard of anyone ineligible trying to get into a polling booth Tuesday.

The following IowaWatch staff writers contributed to this report: Lyle Muller, Sujin Kim, Joy Chang, Laura Arny, Robert Maharry and Benjamin Moore.

***

Earlier version posted at 7:20 p.m., Nov. 6, 2012

The machine printing labels were down for awhile this morning at six Pottawattamie County precincts and college students voting for the first time have needed help proving their residences.

Beyond glitches like those, Election Day voting went smoothly during the day before lines started to grow during the evening, Iowa’s county auditors reported during a review by IowaWatch.

The auditors also said they had detected no one trying to vote illegally. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has made finding, and weeding out, voter fraud as a priority.

“I haven’t seen anything that was remotely related to an imposter or a foreign national,” Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said referring to voters at the polls in his county.

However, a lot of college students, particularly from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, have registered for their first vote at the polls, and that process has slowed up lines where they are voting, Miller said. Some have relied on help from registered voters who can attest that they live in the precinct where they are voting, he told said.

In Story County, Iowa State University students found it hard confirm if they had already registered for voting or not, county Auditor Lucy Martin said. College students in Dubuque County were also having difficulties proving their residences, Auditor Denise Dolan said.

Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder said his office has handed out several provisional ballots to people who just moved into the county. The University of Northern Iowa is in Black Hawk County.

Voters who did not have new addresses on a driver’s license or photo ID had to take other forms, such as a utility bill for their home, to the polls to prove residency, Veeder said.

But a lot of University of Iowa students registering to vote in Johnson County have not had that kind of documentation, county Auditor Tom Slockett said. Their university and phone bills go to their parents, or they have no bank statement in their own name, he said. Or, they chose not to be listed in the UI student directory, or have no residential lease in their name. “They have to vote a provisional ballot,” Slockett said. “Then, they have some more time to supply the information to the Auditor’s Office.”

A lot of people were taking advantage of Iowa’s same-day registration law. “It’s much greater then before,” Miller, in Linn County, said. “Maybe more people know about it.”

Even smaller counties have seen an increase in same-day voter registration this election cycle.  Auditors from Wright, Winnebago, Taylor and Pocahontas County all noticed a significant increase compared to past presidential elections.  However, the smaller counties have had fewer problems with receiving the necessary documentation in order to register, auditors from these counties told IowaWatch.

Plenty of voters had cast ballots before today started. Schultz’s office said 673,124 Iowans, or 34.5 percent of those registered, had voted going into today.

Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill said about one-half of his county’s registered voters cast ballots before today, creating manageable lines at the polls. “We had so many people vote early we haven’t had many problems today,” Gill said late in the afternoon.

Pottawattamie County’s problematic label printer was a combination of human error and machine malfunction, and took about an hour and a half to fix, county Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake said. “From then it’s run pretty smoothly,” she said.

About one-third of the county’s registered voters cast early ballots, Drake said.

Three individuals were charged in September with election fraud in Pottawattamie County but Drake said she had not heard of anyone ineligible trying to get into a polling booth today.

The following IowaWatch staff writers contributed to this report: Lyle Muller, Sujin Kim, Joy Chang, Laura Arny, Robert Maharry and Benjamin Moore.

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