Government

Iowa surpasses 250,000 new registered voters since 2015

Courtney Bark of Marion, Iowa, casts her ballot into a voting box during early voting at Linn County’s Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Courtney Bark of Marion, Iowa, casts her ballot into a voting box during early voting at Linn County’s Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Iowa has logged more than a quarter of a million newly registered voters since the beginning of 2015 — marking a slight increase from the previous three-and-a-half year span.

Kevin Hall, Iowa Secretary of State Office communications director, said Iowa added 250,941 newly registered voters between Jan. 1, 2015, and July 1, 2018. By comparison, Iowa added 241,272 new registered voters from the beginning of 2011 to midway through 2014.

Secretary of State Paul Pate, who took office at the start of 2015 and is running against Democratic challenger Diedre DeJear in the November election, attributed the growth in new voters to increasing voter interest and engagement.

“The 2016 general election obviously had a lot to do with the influx of newly registered voters. We saw an all-time record for active registered voters shortly after that election,” Pate said in a Wednesday email.

“I also attribute it to Iowans being very engaged in the process. We have always taken voting very seriously in this state. The reforms we have put in, like online voter registration and Safe at Home, contributed to the large amount of new registrants.

“It has never been easier to register to vote in Iowa.”

In a Tuesday news release, Pate also noted Iowa in January 2017 set an all-time high for active registered voters with more than two million people.

He cited his office’s 2016 implementation of an online voter registration option — which has been used by close to 90,000 Iowans — and this year’s bill to make Election Day registration easier by allowing proof of residency documents in an electronic format, as factors in Iowa’s voter registration numbers.

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All told, the United States Elections Project last year reported that 93 percent of Iowa’s eligible population was registered to vote, making for one of the highest rankings in the country.

However, Pate’s challenger, Deidre DeJear, said she believes more can be done to get eligible Iowans into the ballot boxes — including younger Iowans, who traditionally have low election turnout.

Of the state’s eligible voters, approximately 400,000 do not vote, she added.

“I don’t think there is room to be touting about records. I think the room, if there is one, is to get out there and find voters and make sure they know where to vote, how to vote and when to vote,” DeJear said.

“I definitely think there is more that we can be doing to get more voters actually participating in the process and getting more people registered.”

Total voter turnout in the 2016 general election was nearly 73 percent, yet statewide turnout only reached about 15 percent in this June primary, according to state data.

Area county auditor’s offices locally have seen registered voter numbers fluctuate in recent years.

Earlier this month, Linn County had more than 151,000 registered voters. That’s a slight drop from the more than 154,000 registered Linn County voters during the 2016 presidential election. Of those, about 118,000 cast ballots.

In Johnson County, there were about 89,000 registered voters in mid-May of this year.

As with Linn County, that represents a slight drop from the 2016 election, when more than 92,000 voters were registered.

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“We always see the largest voter registration numbers for those presidential elections,” said Rebecca Stonawski, Linn County deputy commissioner of elections.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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