CORONAVIRUS

Linn County expects more absentee voting

Requests for ballots on track to exceed 2018 primary

Mike Leonard on April 9 monitors the sealing of envelopes at Allegra Marketing Print Mail in Cedar Rapids. The mailings
Mike Leonard on April 9 monitors the sealing of envelopes at Allegra Marketing Print Mail in Cedar Rapids. The mailings to encouraged Linn County voters to vote absentee in the June 2 primary. To date, more than 11,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller reports. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Requests for absentee ballots in Linn County are running ahead of the 2016 primary election and are on track to surpass the 2018 total, Auditor Joel Miller said Tuesday.

Miller, like other county auditors and Secretary of State Paul Pate, is encouraging Iowans to cast their ballots from home in the June 2 primary election to maintain social-distancing guidelines that are part of the state’s coronavirus mitigation strategy.

Although guidelines are being relaxed in some parts of the state, Miller said on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” that “I don’t think the risk has changed, especially in Linn County.”

The statewide order that closed businesses is not yet being relaxed in 22 Iowa counties, including Linn County.

“So I encourage people to vote at home to protect the voters as well as protect the precinct election officials,” Miller said.

As of Tuesday morning, the Linn County Auditor’s Office had received more than 15,000 absentee ballot requests. Miller said.

The office has mailed out more than 11,100 absentee ballots, and 1,221 voted ballots have been returned. Absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than June 1 to be counted in the primary.

In 2016, Democrats had a four-way race for a U.S. Senate nomination and a two-person race for the 1st District House nomination. That year in Linn County, 2,712, or 20 percent, of the 13,297 people who voted in the primary election cast early or absentee ballots, Miller said later.

Two years later, when Democrats had a four-way race for the 1st District nomination and six candidates running for governor, 2,729, or 13.6 percent, of 20,115 Linn County voters cast early or absentee ballots.

Miller didn’t know what kind of a response to expect when absentee ballot request forms were mailed earlier this month, “but I’m overjoyed with that kind of response,” Miller said. “It should lessen the number of people driving up for curbside voting or coming to the polls on Election Day.

CURBSIDE VOTING

By state law, county auditors must offer curbside voting to accommodate people with limited mobility.

Considering social distancing guidelines and sanitation concerns, Miller decided to use curbside voting for all in-person absentee voting.

That curbside voting will be available starting next week at the Linn County Elections Depot building, 823 Third St. SW, Cedar Rapids, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for Memorial Day, May 25.

It also will be offered Saturday, May 30.

Requests for absentee ballots must be received by the Auditor’s Office by 5 p.m. May 22.

Registered Iowa voters who have not received an absentee ballot request form from either their auditor or the Secretary of State may download a form at sos.iowa.gov.

Voters can register at the polls on Election Day but will need identification and proof of residency.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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