Local Government

Cedar Rapids libraries to host satellite voting

Library levy of 27 cents is on the ballot

Rachelle Molyneux, customer service associate, scans books at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Rachelle Molyneux, customer service associate, scans books at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Auditor Joel Miller says backers of the 27-cent tax levy for the Cedar Rapids library won’t realize an advantage by having a satellite voting station at the downtown library and west-side branch library on Oct. 21.

Miller, who is also the county’s commissioner of elections, said satellite voting at the city’s two libraries is no different from instances in which school districts have requested satellite voting stations on school property as voters vote on a school bond issue or other revenue-raising issue.

“Schools ask all the time, and the library is no different,” Miller said.

Miller said he asks those who would like a satellite voting station to submit a petition with 100 signatures on it, though in this instance as in others, he said he waived the requirement. He said his central interest is that there is a potential that at least a couple hundred people vote if a satellite voting station is set up.

He uses temporary precinct workers to run a satellite voting station, he said.

Tim Box, the county’s deputy commissioner of elections, said the county has set up satellite voting stations five times for special school elections in the last two years.

In the Center Point-Urbana school district, 83 people voted at a satellite station, which was 18 percent of the total of 463 who voted in the election this September. The levy was approved.

In the College Community school district, 132 voted at a satellite station or 6.6 percent of 1,997 who voted on a bond issue this April. The measure failed.

In 2014, the Center Point-Urbana school district passed a bond issue, with 114 or 10 percent of 1,146 voters voting at a satellite station; North Linn school district voted down a levy after 34 (6 percent) of 567 voters voted via a satellite station; and the Central City school district approved a levy after 21 (11.8 percent) of 178 voters voted at a satellite station.

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Miller said the statistics show that a satellite voting station at a site with a revenue question on the ballot hasn’t guaranteed anything.

“I don’t think anybody who comes to use the Cedar Rapids library is any more likely to vote yes (on the library levy issue),” Miller said.

Dara Schmidt, the city’s library director, said this is the second year that the library has hosted satellite voting, and she said the library intends to do it in the years ahead.

“Libraries are historically centers of civic engagement,” said Schmidt.

Amber Mussman, the library’s community relations manager, said no one at the library will be campaigning during satellite voting.

“We’re simply providing access for our community in another location,” she said.

The county’s Box said the Cedar Rapids libraries hosted satellite voting for four days in last year’s gubernatorial election and he said he already has scheduled satellite voting at the Cedar Rapids libraries for the 2016 presidential elections.

He said, too, that the county’s election workers always make sure that no electioneering takes place at the satellite voting site.

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