Election day may not be until Tuesday, but a record number of Iowans have already voted. So far, more than 613,000 ballots have been cast in the state, breaking the 2008 record of 545,000. The wave of early voting has its perks but comes with a lot of pitfalls, too.
Election officials are thrilled to see so many people voting this year. But with all the early voting, and many ballots yet to be returned, it could mean results take days, maybe weeks or more, to be certified in some tight races.
Dozens of people waited in line Monday morning to cast their votes early. Megan Lostroh, a small business owner from Waterloo, is glad to take advantage since she'll be unable to vote Tuesday.
"I'm going to be working long hours tomorrow, plus I agreed to be a poll watcher for one of the parties. So I was concerned I might not have enough time tomorrow to actually go to my poll," Lostroh said.
Reece Conrad of Cedar Falls thinks if there's an hour-long wait Monday, it could be even worse Tuesday. But he's encouraged to see so many people participating in the Democratic process this year.
"The more people that vote, the better it is. I love seeing a line like this, because the closer we get to 100 percent, the better we get a chance to know what everybody wants," Conrad said.
In Black Hawk County alone, 40 percent of registered voters requested absentee ballots. Almost 3,000 more people have cast ballots through satellite voting. It's a lot more work for the county elections office, and that means absentee ballots already turned in are starting to be counted.
"Because of this phenomenon of the huge influx of absentee ballots, the law's been changed so that if you believe you're not going to complete your absentee count by 10 p.m. the night of the election, you're in some cases obligated to start counting them the day before the election," said Grant Veeder, Black Hawk County Auditor.
There are 3600 absentee ballots that still haven't been returned. So there's concern that some race results won't be finalized until the canvass next week. Four years ago, in a tight local race, it took weeks to declare a winner.
"One candidate appeared to be the winner election night. There were more ballots to be counted after the election, and the other candidate appeared to be the winner. It was so close there was a recount. It went up to Thanksgiving week before we had a certified winner," Veeder said.
It's just proof that every vote, whether early or on election day, really does count.
It is not uncommon for thousands of absentee ballots to not get returned by deadline. Some of those people just choose not to vote, others lose their ballots or decide to vote in-person using a provisional ballot.
During the last presidential election, 72 percent of registered Black Hawk County voters cast ballots, so Iowa is on track to match or top that this year.
If you haven't voted yet, polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
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