Election tweaks in the works

Poll workers give feedback on primary election

T-R PHOTOS BY ADAM SODDERS - TOP -About two dozen of the poll workers who helped Marshall County citizens vote last week shared their feedback with county elections officials during “Chat ‘n Chew” Wednesday at the Marshall County Courthouse. The information will be used in preparation for the Nov. 6 general election. -- BOTTOM - County officials took notes based on the poll workers’ suggestions following the June 5 primary election. From left: Auditor’s Elections Assistant Blaze Wurr,Assistant Auditor Cynthia Reutzel, county Auditor and Recorder Nan Benson.

Election Day brings work from dawn until dusk for Marshall County’s poll workers, about two dozen of whom shared their thoughts on the June 5 primary at a Wednesday meeting.

Dubbed “Chat ‘n Chew,” the get-together was a forum for workers to share feedback on how the primary election went last week. Marshall County Auditor and Recorder Nan Benson, Assistant Auditor Cynthia Reutzel and Auditor-Recorder’s Elections Assistant Blaze Wurr took down notes for changes and tweaks at the meeting in the Marshall County Courthouse.

“We need to do something different for getting things set up in the morning and tearing down at night,” Benson said.

Some of the poll workers reported issues setting up the elections computer systems early in the morning when they arrived at their polling place. Others called on election night with issues packing the gear up to take to the Marshall County Courthouse.

Benson and Reutzel said they may seek extra help setting up computers and picking up gear on Election Day Nov. 6.

“At some of the locations, they’ve got someone who is pretty technical … some don’t,” Benson said. “That’s why I’m thinking we may see about getting county employees to go out to the locations who would be available before and after work.”

One poll worker at the meeting, Esther Nusbaum, said she heard some complaints from Marshalltown fourth ward voters on June 5. Those people voted at Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1600 S. Center St. this year after several years of voting at First Baptist Church, 700 E. Olive St.

“How could we get it out to the public more that we changed places to Redeemer?” Nusbaum said to the county officials. “People were coming in, saying ‘We didn’t know you changed.'”

Reutzel said office staff did their “due diligence” to ensure as many people as possible knew about the location change made official in March. Efforts included sending out news releases, sharing information via local media, putting up signs at First Baptist and sending out more than 4,000 voter registration cards to people in the ward.

First ward poll worker Gary Thompson said his elections team had “a hoodlum problem” late on Election Day last week. He said the young people asked for food as the workers were loading equipment to take back to the courthouse and “wouldn’t move” when asked.

“I think it’s a hinderance for voters, too, and I understand that the election before they even had the police there,” Thompson said.

Benson said she could communicate with Marshalltown Police about the issue ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

The primary election and upcoming general election are taking place during a “soft rollout” of a new state voter ID law requiring poll workers to ask potential voters for a valid form of ID, such as an Iowa driver’s license, non-operator’s ID, military or veteran ID, U.S. passport or state-provided voter ID card. This year only, those without such documentation are allowed to sign an oath swearing to their identity.

Auditor-recorder’s office numbers show 59 of the county’s 2,891 primary election voters, about 2 percent, signed such an oath. There were also 28 election day registrants.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the poll worker group said there were few issues when it came to the ID law, with some people coming in with an expired iD or with s state-issued voter registration card from previous years.

“The feedback today is that people didn’t hear any big opposition to handing them the ID and giving the information so they can vote,” Benson said.

Other changes she said her office will look at ahead of Nov. 6 include holding more training, particularly on how to handle different emergencies at the polls. The day after the primary election, a large storm system knocked out power in part of the county and Benson said poll workers should be prepared for those kinds of situations.

Some of the poll workers suggested including a few sets of “cheater” reading glasses and small reading lights for voters who have a hard time reading their ballots. Magnifying sheets were available at the June 5 polling places but workers said glasses would be easier to use.

Benson said she plans to put out more signs showing where polling places are on Nov. 6, and that her office is seeking many types of elections workers for that day.

“If they’re interested, they can approach us now,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of different jobs, too, it’s not just working a day at the precincts.”

Along with poll workers, equipment movers and people willing to assist with preparation for nursing home voters are being sought. Those interested in helping can call the auditor’s office at 641-754-6302 for more information.

Canvass shows Benson for HD 72

County officials all over the state canvassed votes from the primary earlier this week, producing the official tallies for the races.

One close race in Central Iowa was for the Democratic nomination to run for the Iowa House District 72 seat. According to the official counts from Marshall, Tama and Black Hawk counties, Mindy Benson was confirmed the winner of that primary race.

She defeated closest Democratic rival David Degner 404 to 394, a difference of 10 votes. Benson was originally reported as the winner on June 5 at a margin of four votes.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com