In-person absentee voting begins Oct. 5

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The 2020 Presidential Election is just about one month away (Nov. 3), yet early in-person absentee voting in Iowa starts Monday, Oct. 5.

     From Oct. 5 through Nov. 2, voters in Jones County can fill out absentee ballots in person at the county courthouse.

     County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Janine Sulzner expects an increase in voter turnout overall this election season.

     “I anticipate the first week being very active,” she said, “than a slow down, then a ramp up again in the 10 days when we can no longer mail (out) ballots.

     “Nov. 2 should be a very active day for in-person absentee voting,” she continued.

     Special hours will be offered for those wanting to vote at the courthouse before Election Day:

     • Saturday, Oct. 24, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

     • Saturday, Oct. 31, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

     • Monday, Nov. 2, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

     As of last week, Sulzner’s office has 3,294 absentee ballots ready to mail out on the morning of Oct. 5. (In Iowa, absentee ballots cannot be sent out until that date.)

     “Presidential elections always bring out more (voters),” Sulzner said from years of experience.

     This year, there seems to be a big push from various political organizations and candidate campaigns for absentee voting, sending out numerous absentee forms to voters statewide.

     “I am aware of at least 10 different organizations/campaigns sending out absentee mailers,” shared Sulzner.

     As for whether the increase in absentee voting is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and voters not wanting to vote on Election Day, Sulzner couldn’t say.

     “Due to COVID and increased absentee activity, I don’t expect the polls to be as busy as they would otherwise be,” she said. “Overall I do expect a higher turnout than in the last.”

     The 2012 election saw a higher turnout in Jones County with 75 percent. That included 10,492 votes from 13,926 registered voters.

     Since Sept. 1, Jones County has seen 60 new registered voters, most having completed the process by mail or online.

     “Voters can register to vote online if they have a current Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID,” offered Sulzner.

     Interestingly enough, Sulzner said she doesn’t tend to see political party affiliation change much during a general election.

     For those who wish to vote by in-person absentee, you can do so in the Community Room in the basement of the courthouse.

     “This allows us to provide more space for social distancing and easier access for voters,” offered Sulzner.

     Part-time and temporary Auditor’s Office staff will assist voters, as well as permanent staff if needed.

     For those who cannot come into the courthouse to vote for health or medical reasons, curbside voting will also be available.

     Those planning to vote in-person absentee must have a valid photo ID with them, a law requirement now in Iowa.

     If you have a different address than what is recorded on your voter registration, proof of residency is also required.

     “Due to delays with driver’s license issuances and renewals, any Iowa driver’s license that expires in 2020 will be considered valid for voting purposes for this election,” Sulzner said.

     While the courthouse is still screening the public as they enter through the west door due to COVID, those coming to vote will not be subjected to health screenings.

     “The right to vote pre-empts local rules, ordinances, etc.,” noted Sulzner of the county’s screenings measures. “If we were to screen voters during the in-person absentee voting period, we would need to follow different procedures.

     “My primary concern,” continued Sulzner, “is that if a voter is refused entry for failure to pass the screening, or refusal to be screened, will they get the correct assistance? They cannot be refused service; we must accommodate them and we don’t have the staff to monitor compliance with that if screening measures are applied to voters.”

     Barriers will be in place leading to and from the west entrance for voters to go in and out. If voters plan to go anywhere else within the courthouse while present, they will be required to the screening after they’ve voted.

     There will also not be health screenings conducted on Election Day for the same reasons as Sulzner outlined above. The same public health measures will be in place on Nov. 3 as they were in June for the primary, if not more.

     “Voters cannot be required to wear masks,” stipulated Sulzner, “or use hand sanitizer.”

     If voters don’t feel safe voting at polling places on Election Day, Sulzner strongly encourages you to request an absentee ballot and vote from the safety of your own home.

     If you have any questions regarding in-person absentee voting, contact Sulzner’s office at 319-462-2282.

     “I encourage Jones County residents to exercise their right to vote using any of the various options available that they personally determine is the safest environment to address their health concerns,” urged Sulzner. “I have no concerns regarding the services provided by our long-time election partners in the U.S, Postal Service. Voters just cannot wait until the last minute to request a ballot be mailed to them, nor wait until the last minute to mail their voted ballot back.”

     Furthermore, Sulzner asks that Jones County voters “stop and pause with all of the hype and noise in the media, social media, etc.”

     Iowa has offered mail-in and in-person absentee voting for decades now, and election administrators and staff “are competent people whose primary goal are to be certain that every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote, that all eligible ballots are counted, and to assure that only one ballot per voter is counted.”


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