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Early voters navigate questions about absentee ballots

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 10:28 PM CDT
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Lawrence Reiner isn’t new to voting. He’s voted in-person for more than 50 years, but this year, he’s voting absentee because of COVID-19, and it hasn’t been as easy as he’d hoped.

“And they said yes Mr. Reiner you did request a ballot," Reiner said. "Thank you very much, I can’t wait for October 5th! And then October 5th came and went. And the 6th, and the 7th, and the 8-10. On the 14th, I called the office and said, ‘where’s my ballot.’”

Reiner is one of 17,430 people in Johnson County who had to navigate their absentee ballot request form being invalidated by a judge because the forms were pre-filled out.

He said he was able to ask for a new request form over the phone on Wednesday, and he hopes it comes by next week, so he can get his vote in early as planned, saying “[Voting is] very, very, very important. Most important election I’ve ever voted in.”

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said everyone whose request forms were invalidated has been sent a new, blank form. He said early voting numbers are the highest he’s ever seen, with their drive through voting site seeing an average of 700 people a day, and 300 more people a day at their satellite sites.

“I mean we’ve never seen these kinds of numbers out in our rural areas this early, this many people wanting to vote early, it’s mind-blowing to the whole office,” Weipert said.

Weipert also said there have been people changing their voting plan, which can make the process more complicated. He said if someone has already requested an absentee ballot, it’s easiest to mail in the completed ballot or drop it off at one of their drop boxes, instead of deciding to vote early in-person or on Election Day.

He said one reason he’s hearing for a change in plans is people are worried about putting their ballot in the mail.

“A lot of people are afraid to mail their ballot, which you shouldn’t be," he said. “Everyone wants to make sure their ballot counts this year, which here in Iowa, all of us auditors will make sure your ballot counts.”

Weipert is encouraging anyone with questions to call the elections office at 319-356-6004.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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