DES MOINES, Iowa — It is election day and this year Iowa residents are voting for mayors, city council and school board members all on one day. This is the first time this is happening since the Iowa legislature ended the long-standing tradition of holding the school board elections in September.
“This is a big change from what we used to do,” Polk County Auditor and Commissions of Elections, Jamie Fitzgerald said. “We used to have elections in September for school and November for city. Legislature decided to combine them in order to save money and to increase turnout. Turnout historically is about six to eight percent for both elections.”
There are lots of options for residents of Des Moines. Four candidates are running for mayor and 13 candidates are vying for three city council seats.
In the mayoral race, Frank Cownie is seeking a fifth term. He’s the longest-serving mayor in Des Moines history and won with 80% of votes last election.
Joe Grandanette, who ran for congress last year and in years 2016 and 2014, says he will focus on fixing Des Moines’ roads.
Jack Hatch also is focusing on infrastructure. The former state senator who lost the Governor’s race in 2014 to Gov. Branstad also plans to protect the city’s water. Hatch says he will make sure it’s clean and under city control.
Lastly, Chase Holm, an Army veteran, wants to reduce property taxes and decriminalize marijuana.
Seven candidates are up for the city council’s at-large seat. One of these candidates will be replacing Chris Coleman who served for 21 years. Many of the candidates are focusing on things such as road conditions, affordable housing, and climate sustainability.
Two wards are also up for election. In ward two, incumbent Linda Westergaard, whose focus is on public safety and fixing streets, is going up against Jerry Davis and Skip Moore. Davis and Moore both are focused on infrastructure.
In ward four there is a similar theme. Joe Gatto, after running unopposed in 2015 has some competition. He and competitor, Chelsea Chism-Vegas, both are focusing on infrastructure. While ToyA Johnson’s main issues are tax relief and racial injustice.
Keep in mind that Des Moines is a runoff city. Therefore the city council seats and mayoral candidates must win by more than 50%.
“Otherwise we would have to do an election with the top two in December,” Fitzgerald said.
Something else to pay attention to when voting is the boundaries. Precinct and school boundaries do not always match.
“So in Polk County we have 177 precincts. And in those 177 precincts, we have 52 that have multiple ballot styles. And what that means is the school district’s boundaries don’t necessarily match up with the precinct’s boundaries,” Fitzgerald said.
However, the election’s office is saying they are prepared for this due to new electronic voting
“We have now computers and you’ll go to any one that’s open, and you’ll have your own signature. So instead of having to find your name in the book, you’ll be able to find it on the computer and we can get you in and out as fast as we can,” Fitzgerald said.
You can vote Tuesday at a local polling place. To find your exact polling site go VoterReadyIowa.org. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Remember this year you must bring a valid ID.