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Iowa county auditors prepare for election

At the Warren County Auditor’s Office, work is non-stop.

Warren County Auditor Traci VanderLinden said her office already broke its previous early voting record. About 14,000 people have returned their absentee ballots, in a county where 37,000 people are registered to vote.

On Election Day, she still expects to stay busy, but not at the same rate as in past elections.

“It’s a 2020 election. Everything is crazy, but it’s gone very well,” VanderLinden said.

The rest of the state is also following suit.

As of Oct. 28, 815,918 Iowans have returned their absentee ballots.

Out of those, 396,357 are Democrats and 262,562 are Republicans. That surpasses the 653,438 absentee ballots cast during the 2016 presidential election.

In Woodbury County, Auditor Pat Gill said he expects the county to break its early-voting record on Wednesday. The previous record was 21,479 absentee ballots cast in 2012. The absentee ballot drop box has been popular, he said.

His office has urged local residents to vote early. Although a high number of voters have cast their ballots, Gill said he believes those numbers should be higher.

“We’ve been pushing it due to the pandemic,” Gill said. “That was tempered some by the national media stories about vote by mail. I think it would have been greater if it wasn’t for all of that.”

VanderLinden said Warren County will start counting early ballots on Monday and take advantage of Secretary of State Paul Pate’s initiative to allow the extra time. In 2018, she said there were 12,000 absentee ballots and it took all day to count them.

“We just barely made the 9 p.m. deadline,” VanderLinden said. “With this many we’re going to have to start on Monday.”

Nationally, some auditors have reported security fears over intimidation tactics at poll sites, but Gill and VanderLinden said they don’t expect the same kind of organization in Iowa.

Gill said off-duty police officers are scheduled to help with traffic control because they moved their polling sites from churches to schools because of COVID-19.

VanderLinden said the sheriff’s office is on standby if anything happens.

“I think we have things set pretty well and hopefully we don’t have to worry about that here in our state,” VanderLinden said.

Secretary of State Paul Pate announced this week that Pratum, a cybersecurity firm based in Ankeny, is assisting his office and all 99 counties with securing the vote.

“As election officials, we prepare for the worst, but hope for the best,” Pate said in a news release. “Whether it’s a cyber event, civil unrest, equipment failure, or a natural disaster, we have a plan and we are prepared to handle it.”

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