Polk County Auditor reports high turnout for municipal elections as office adjusts to new voting rules

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Odd-year elections are typically overlooked compared to elections with candidates for Congress or President, but Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald said his county’s voters came out in droves for Tuesday’s municipal elections.

“We had a little bit over 69,000 voters out of the roughly 250,000 voters that are active in Polk County, 25,000 more voters than we had in 2019,” Fitzgerald said. “We started counting ballots at 8 o’clock Tuesday night and I think it got done around 5:30, 6 o’clock in the morning on Wednesday.”

This was the first major election since changes to Iowa’s electoral process were signed into law in March. The law made the following reforms:

  • Pushed back the final day of voter registration from eleven days to fifteen days before each election
  • Shortened the time to apply for an absentee ballot from 120 days to 70 days
  • Counties can only establish one drop box for ballots, which must be located where the county’s ballots are counted
  • Absentee ballots must arrive to an auditor’s office by Election Day, with no exceptions for postmark dates

Fitzgerald said the shortened application time for absentee ballots did effect a handful of voters in Polk County.

“We had 193 voters that requested a ballot after the new deadline that would have been counted a year ago,” Fitzgerald said. “Those aren’t very fun calls to make.”

Fitzgerald’s office also called voters who held onto their absentee ballots until the final days of election season.

“We told them, ‘If you still have it, don’t mail it. Go to the polling site. Come to the county auditor’s office,'” Fitzgerald said. “We saw that effort statewide.”

He said the high voter enthusiasm this election season will help auditors across Iowa prepare for the 2022 midterms, which features races for both Governor and United States Senator.

“We think it was a good trial run for the new laws,” Fitzgerald said. “It gave voters the opportunity to know what these changes are and how they affect real people.”

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