Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

Early voting escalates as election nears

By DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND, Ledger staff writer | Nov 01, 2012
Photo by: DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND/Ledger photo Maharishi University of Management student Natalie Baginski visits the satellite voting station at the Argiro Student Center Conference Room Oct. 25 to cast her vote for the general election. The unique Iowa law requires election officials to hold a voting event at a specific location if the citizen petitioning for it obtains 100 signatures from county voters. All residents of Fairfield and of Center and Buchanan Townships could vote between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25. Baginski was one of 169 voters to make use of the event.

Robo-calls, door-to-door canvassers and posters promoting early voting are a few ways residents can tell the general election is drawing near.

Jefferson County Auditor Scott Reneker said he expects early voting to escalate in the five days leading up to Election Day Tuesday.

Reneker has received 4,380 requests for ballots, 3,656 of which have already been cast. He said that number could easily reach 5,000 in the coming days. In 2008, 4,100 residents cast their vote early, up from 3,451 cast in 2004.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is 5 p.m. Friday. The Absentee Ballot Request Form is available at the auditor’s office and online.

County residents can cast their general election ballots in person during office hours 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the auditor’s office in the courthouse.

Jefferson County residents also can vote between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday in the Fairfield Hy-Vee Club Room for Fairfield’s final satellite voting event.

The practice is unique to Iowa, allowing anyone who obtains signatures of 100 county voters to select a specific site for a satellite absentee voting station. Election officials are then required to hold voting at the location for at least one day in the 40 days leading up to Election Day. Satellite voting has taken place in Fairfield this year at the Fairfield Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store and at the Argiro Student Center on the Maharishi University of Management campus.

In Fairfield, Reneker said representatives of Obama for America filed the petitions for the two satellite stations.

The M.U.M. voting event, which took place Oct. 24 and 25, had a turnout of 169 voters. Saturday, 42 county residents voted at Hy-Vee.

“That’s about the number we were anticipating,” he said. “Satellite voting in Jefferson County is relatively new.”

Satellite voting was held at the Argiro center in 2008 for one day.

This year, a question of electioneering arose in the Argiro center after a group set up a station near the building’s entrance, with non-partisan voting signs and a bowl of candy.

“I got a report there was a station of students giving direction to where the voting station was,” said Reneker.

“I talked to them and they indicated they were simply informing of the voting activity, not promoting a candidate.”

However, he said, “There were familiar faces on the Obama side and speculation of them being with that effort.”

They said they also would have set up outside, but it was raining heavily.

“If they in any way promote voters to vote for him within 300 feet of voting, it’s considered electioneering,” he said.

Reneker called the secretary of state for guidance, saying he’d never had that situation arise. Since the voting was taking place in a separate room from the station in question but possibly within 300 feet, Reneker said it was, “a gray area subject to interpretation.”

He asked the group to remove the bowl of candy for the remainder of the day.

Reneker expects most of the roughly 700 requested ballots, which have not been returned to come in within the next few days.

For those planning to mail in an absentee ballot, the envelope must be postmarked by Monday in order to be counted, and must be received by Tuesday, Nov. 13. He said every four years, he receives a handful postmarked the day of the election.

“We don’t even open those, we can’t count them,” he said.

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