Iowa counties report brisk early voting

By: - October 9, 2020 6:34 pm

Women dressed as suffragettes encourage all to vote on Oct. 5, 2020, the first day for early voting in Polk County. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A spot check of 18 Iowa counties on Friday found strong turnouts both at the polls and in absentee balloting in the first week of voting.

An analysis by Iowa Capital Dispatch found many counties already have turnouts amounting to 5% to 7% of their total voter registrations. Counties in which more voters are registered as Democrats tended to have more early voting.

Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald tweeted that about 700 people a day have voted in person since the polls opened on Monday, with 923 voting in person on Friday.

“The nice weather helps a great deal,” Fitzgerald tweeted. 

The secretary of state’s office reported late Friday afternoon that Polk County voters had returned 14,845 absentee ballots. Polk County has 310,319 registered voters.


Some organizations have pushed the idea of mail-in voting as a way to protect against the spread of COVID-19, the illness at the center of this year’s coronavirus pandemic.

In heavily Democratic Johnson County, 6.3% of registered voters have cast ballots already. In Black Hawk County, where Democrats enjoy much slimmer advantage in registrations, 14% of registered voters had cast ballots by the close of business Friday.

In contrast, Hardin County, where active Republican registrations outnumber Democrats, 4,618 to 2,437, turnout was 3.4% by midday Friday. In Adair, another GOP stronghold, turnout was 2.6% so far. 

National polls have shown Democrats are much more likely to vote by mail absentee ballots than Republicans. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly claimed heavy absentee balloting by mail invites fraud, despite bipartisan investigations that have showed few cases of irregularities over the years.

When the polls opened at the Polk County Election Office Monday, dozens were in line, even in jacket weather. The excitement of the first day brought out white-clad “suffragettes” and others carrying signs, and voters in everything from informal garb to red, white and blue vests, hats and pants. Warm weather brought higher numbers as the week wore on.

Voters wait for the Polk County Election Office to open on Oct. 5, 2020, the first day for early voting. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

For historical perspective, in 2016, a general election that included the presidency, 934,219 Iowans voted on Election Day, and 647,152 voted absentee.

This year, 703,768 Iowans have requested absentee ballots, state records show so far. 

Here’s a rundown of a sampling of other counties’ voting activity this week:

Adair: As of mid-afternoon Friday, 67 people had voted in person. Another 73 completed ballots had been mailed in or delivered to the county, said Auditor Mandy Berg. Registered voters: 5,334. Percent cast: 2.6%

Allamakee: As of Friday afternoon, 217 had voted in person. Another 616 had returned absentee ballots, said Auditor Denise Beyer. Registered voters: 9,830. Percent cast: 8.5%

Black Hawk: So far, 1,955 have voted in person, with 10,466 absentee ballots received, Auditor Grant Veeder said. Voter registrations: 88,555. Percent cast: 14%

Buena Vista: As of Friday morning, 187 had voted in person. Another 212 absentee ballots completed and returned, said Auditor Karla Ahrendsen. Registered voters: 12,437. Percent cast: 3.2%

Cedar: In person votes totaled 234 as of Thursday, with 524 absentee ballots completed and returned, Auditor Cari Dauber reported. Registered voters: 12,368. Percent cast: 6.1%

Cerro Gordo: By 8:30 a.m. Friday, the county had 742 in-person votes cast and 1,107 absentee ballots returned, Auditor Adam Wedmore reported. Registered voters: 30,822. Percent cast: 6%

Clayton: As of 2 p.m. Friday, 89 had cast ballots in person, and another 742 completed absentee ballots had been received by mail or delivered in person in Clayton County, said Auditor Jennifer Garms. Registered voters: 11,917. Percent cast: 7%

Dallas: As of Thursday, 724 had voted in person. As of Friday afternoon, 3,721 had returned absentee ballots, said Auditor Julie Helm. Registered voters: 62,430. Percent cast: 7.1%

Dubuque: “At the moment, we have had 993 people vote in person and we are still waiting on people,” Auditor Jenny Hillary said at mid-afternoon Friday. Another 3,051 had voted by absentee ballot, 2,200 on Friday alone, Hillary said. Registered voters: 69,315. Percent cast: 5.8%

Emmet: As of mid-afternoon Friday, 97 had voted in person. Another 105 completed absentee ballots had been received, Auditor Amy Sathoff said. Registered voters:  6,693. Percent cast: 3%.

Hardin: As of Friday afternoon 185 in-person ballots had been cast, and 205 complete absentee ballots were received, Auditor Jessica Lara said. Registered voters: 11,633. Percent cast: 3.4%

Johnson: As of late Thursday, 2,938 had cast in-person ballots and 3,811 absentee ballots had been returned by mail, reported John Deeth of the election staff. Registered voters: 107,860. Percent cast: 6.3%

Kossuth: Deputy Auditor Christy Skilling reported as of Friday afternoon, 222 had voted in person and 306 had voted absentee. Voter registrations: 11,191. Percent cast: 4.7%

Marshall: As of 2 p.m. Friday, 590 ballots had been cast in person, Assistant Auditor Cindy Reutzel reported. Completed absentee ballots returned: 1,337. Registered voters: 24,641. Percent cast: 7.8%

Plymouth: As of 3 p.m. Friday, 303 had voted in person and 650 had voted by absentee ballot, said Auditor Stacey Feldman. Voter registrations: 17,690. Percent cast: 5.4%

Pottawattamie: By mid-afternoon Friday, 626 had voted in person and another 2,137 had voted by absentee ballot, First Deputy Auditor Kristi Everett reported. Registered voters: 63,115. Percent cast: 4.4%

Woodbury: As of mid-afternoon Friday, Auditor Pat Gill reported 1,522 early in-person votes and 2,235 absentee ballots returned. Registered voters: 62,851. Percent cast: 6%

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.