While most Iowa voters are choosing to vote from home for the primary election on June 2, polling places will still be open for Iowans to vote. However, social distancing procedures have been implemented by the county auditors, and the locations of many polling places have been changed.
Most counties are consolidating their voting locations, and some of the smaller counties have narrowed down to just one or two sites.
In the state’s largest county, Polk, County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald took the usual 135 voting locations down to just 28. While these locations are not the normal polling places. they will be at easily identifiable locations like schools and held in large rooms like the student commons or gyms. This will allow poll workers and voters to spread out and minimize contact and possible COVID-19 contamination.
Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz told Starting Line she does worry that the consolidation of polling places will mean that some voters will choose not to vote. Some voters could go to their normal polling location, and when they see the notice on the door, they will simply go home instead of going to the new polling site. However, she stresses that county auditors have done the best they can to inform voters about the change in locations, and that the mailing of absentee ballot request forms by Secretary of State Paul Pate has given voters ample opportunity to vote.
The auditors are expecting lower turnout in person this year, but are still taking the proper precautions to make sure those who do vote in person remain safe. Social distancing guidelines will be required, and in most counties, there will be floor markings to indicate how far voters should stand from each other.
Additionally, the Secretary of State has provided county auditors with personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Department of Homeland Security that will be used to minimize virus spread. Poll workers will have gloves and masks, along with disinfectant spray and wipes that will be used to clean voting machines between voters and clean surfaces that could carry the virus. Also, no reusable writing utensils will be provided, and in Scott County, Mortiz is providing reusable “I Voted” pencils for voters to use and take home.
Curbside voting will also be available as usual for people with disabilities or who are otherwise unable to come into the polling place. While this is not intended to be used by most voters, Fitzgerald says that if a voter is uneasy about coming inside, especially if they are in a vulnerable demographic, they can make use of the curbside voting system. This would have the voter call a number on a sign outside the polling place, and a worker will come out and help them vote from their car.
The new precautions for voting are designed to keep both poll workers and voters safe, and county auditors stress that the increase in voting by mail will help to decrease lines, and thus minimize possible contamination.
It remains to be seen whether or not Secretary of State Pate sends absentee ballot request forms to all voters for the general election, but Fitzgerald states that voters might get used to the convenience of having a postage paid request form mailed to their home. If this becomes the norm, it could drastically affect turnout, and thus impact the results of important Iowa elections.
by Adam Henderson
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