Early voting has rising importance


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While some local traffic has arrived at early voting locations for the midterm election, overall numbers are down compared with those in the past.

Around one-third of all people registered to vote have requested an absentee ballot or voted at an early voting satellite location, according to statistics from the Johnson County Auditor’s Office through Oct. 31.

“Now, we finally have an open U.S. Senate seat, which has really driven people to early voting locations,” Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said.

In Johnson County, 23,777 people have returned their early voting ballots through the mail, at the Auditor’s Office and satellite locations. As of Oct. 25, there were 89,266 registered voters in the county.

Overall, Democrats are outpacing Republicans with 43 percent of registered voters sending in their vote early compared with nearly 29 percent of Republicans.

Weipert said although Republicans trail in the number of early voters, they have been more proactive in getting party members to vote early.

“Republicans have been great with their vote-early campaign this year,” he said.

In the last midterm election, 2010, 5,415 early voting ballots for Republicans were returned. So far this year, 5,276 ballots have been returned.

Chairman of the Johnson County Republicans Bill Keettel said that although it may go against Republican tradition, if early voting exists, it should be important.

“One of the driving forces has been the Branstad campaign and the Republican Party of Iowa,” he said.

Early voting has seen slow adoption in the party, Keettel said, because of the importance of actual day of elections.

“It’s a mark of citizenship at the polls because it affirms a tie to the nation,” he said.

Weipert said certain precincts don’t vote early, including Tiffin, and heading to the polls on Election Day is a tradition.

Last midterm election, 25,843 people voted early. During the 2012 presidential election, which Weipert said obviously will attract more voters, there were 44,143 early votes in the county.

The numbers may be similar, but Weipert said early voting provides a valuable service to the younger generation and the working class.

“Makes it easier for working families to come and vote and keeps them more engaged,” he said.

Local Democrats have also worked to increase mid-term participation.

Gerene Denning, the head of the Johnson County Democrats, said because Democrats are less likely to go vote in midterm elections, early voting is especially important to the party.

“The best way to get them to vote is to reach out to them through early voting,” she said.

Early voting locations in Johnson County are open through Monday, but Weipert said he expects it to slow down in the days just before the election.

Early voting has become more popular over time, with more than 10,000 more votes in the 2010 election than the 2006 election, according to statistics from the Auditor’s Office, and Denning said early voting may become more popular in the coming years.

“People may buy into it a little more in the future if it is more convenient for them,” she said.

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