Linn County using heat maps to increase efficiency for 2020 elections

The Linn County Auditor's Office is using heat maps like this one to select where to place...
The Linn County Auditor's Office is using heat maps like this one to select where to place satellite polling places for the 2020 general election (Mary Green/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 11:09 PM CST
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Linn County is expecting a big turnout not just for next week’s caucuses, but also for the general election in November.

Months ahead of then, the county auditor’s office, which administers elections, is planning how to make the election as efficient as possible by using heat maps. Those maps will help determine where to put permanent satellite polling locations, which Linn County hasn’t done before. The county has had “pop-up” sites where people can vote over the course of a few days.

These permanent locations would be open over the entire 29-day early voting period in Iowa for six days a week when voters can cast their ballots.

Eric Loecher, Linn County’s elections systems administrator, said about 40% of people in Linn County who voted in the 2016 general election did so early, but they’d like to get that percentage up to 50% in 2020.

"Just to help relieve stress on Election Day,” Loecher said. “We don't necessarily have a lot of stress on our polling places, but it's nice to get those votes in before Election Day."

The heat maps show the population densities of the voters, nonvoters and absentee voters in Linn County from the 2016 and 2018 elections, and based on them, the auditor's office is considering permanent satellite locations in Lindale Mall and somewhere in Marion.