Elections are actually only about 20 percent of Story County Auditor Lucy Martin’s job, but right now, with a general election right around the corner, everything to do with voting is taking up most of her time.
Even though we’re not electing a president this year, it’s still a very big election. By noon Monday the auditor’s office had already had 105 people come in to vote early and had received 3,341 requests for mailed ballots.
“This is already the longest ballot we have in any cycle,” Martin said, sliding a sample ballot across the table to show all the races. “All the statewide races are on this, and more county races. So be sure to give yourself plenty of time in the voting booth.”
You will need that time, also, if in the past you just voted all one party and simply filled in one oval at the top of your ballot to do that. “Straight party voting” as it’s called, was eliminated in 2017, and this year is the first big election where people experience that change.
Voting, in many ways, may seem like a simple thing, but there are a lot of little things that have to happen for voting to work correctly, and there are often many questions associated with a variety of individual situations for people who want to vote.
If you have a question about your own voting, the easiest thing to do, Martin said, is to call the County Auditor’s office and ask. The number is 515-382-7210 and the office is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
There are also resources available to help you with questions, and all of those question-and-answer documents, plus lists of voting locations and times, etc., can be found online at www.storycountyiowa.gov/elections.
Briefly, let’s go over a few things about voting, which Martin said in Iowa “is a very generous” system. “We have no-fault absentee voting and we pay all postage (on absentee voting),” she said.
The ways to vote here in Story County include: absentee voting — requesting a ballot so you can vote from home (the deadline is Oct. 27 for that); early voting — coming into the County Auditor’s office at the Story County Administration Building in Nevada (900 Sixth St.), which started this past Monday; voting at a satellite location, all of which are located in Ames (a list of locations can be found on the auditor’s website) or going to the polls on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The satellite voting locations started becoming available this past Monday, Oct. 8, the same time that early voting started at the auditor’s office.
Why are all the satellite locations in Ames? Because, as Martin pointed out, “67 percent of the county’s population lives in Ames,” so from a financial and use standpoint, putting those locations in Ames simply “gives us the most bang for our buck,” she said.
Registering and ID
If you have voted year after year and haven’t changed your official residence since the last time you voted, then showing up at the right precinct (find yours at the auditor’s website) on election day is all you really need to do. And even though registered voters have a free pass this year if they forget to bring an ID along, Martin said getting yourself into that practice with this upcoming election would be wise because, after this year, it will be required to have an ID with you to vote.
“This year only, you can sign an ‘Oath of ID’ at the polls,” Martin said. “This year only there’s that safety net, but that goes away next year.”
If you have changed residence, even if you’ve just moved to a new apartment in the same building, or if you are a first-time voter, you need to register to vote.
Registration isn’t complicated. You can update your voter registration in several ways. You can go to the Department of Transportation website (if you have an Iowa driver’s license or a nonoperator ID), pick up a form at your local library, get a printable form off the auditor’s website, call the auditor’s office and have a form mailed to you, or stop in the auditor’s office in Nevada to register.
The one thing Martin advises is that even though you can register the day of the election — yes, it’s possible to do that — don’t wait. During election days, lines can be long and registration can take a while if election workers are busy. It’s better, she said, to preregister. Just be advised that registration forms must be received by the auditor’s office by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27.
Saturday, Oct. 27, is a big day where this year’s election is concerned. It’s the deadline to preregister to vote and it’s the last day to request a mailed absentee ballot. Even though it’s a Saturday, the Story County Auditor’s Office will be open that day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to accommodate those needing to register. The deadline for voting absentee in person is Monday, Nov. 5, and again, the auditor’s office will be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on that Saturday to serve those who need to vote early.
Resources and workers
If you have questions about this year’s election, the best advice on getting an answer is to call the auditor’s office or visit their website, where all kinds of information — where to vote, times to vote, how to vote and who is on the ballot — can be found.
Also, Martin said the Story County Auditor’s Office can always use more election workers. You must be 17 to work at an election and you must be a registered voter in this county to work at the polls in this county. You must also be available to attend a three-and-a-half to four-hour training session, offered at times during the week at the auditor’s office. Election workers are paid $10 an hour for a long day, into the evening, of work, and they are provided with light refreshments. If you are interested, please call the Story County Auditor’s Office, 515-382-7210.