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A Record Number Of Iowa Voters Have Cast An Absentee Ballot

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Friday, October 23

4:04 p.m. - Election officials remind Iowans to sign outer envelope before returning ballot

Iowans are voting early at a record pace, including many Iowans who are voting by mail for the first time.

Election officials say voters should make sure they sign the outer ballot envelope before returning their ballot. Your ballot won’t be counted if it isn’t signed.

But Iowa election officials provide an opportunity to fix that and other technical problems with absentee ballots. County auditors are required by law to contact the voter within 24 hours of receiving a faulty ballot.

Voters can go to their elections office to fix the problem with their ballot, or they can ask their county auditor to cancel their original ballot and then vote in person early or on Election Day instead.

3:47 p.m. - A record number of Iowa voters have cast an absentee ballot

As of Friday, a record number of Iowa voters have cast an absentee ballot. So far, election officials have received more than 685,000 ballots, more than were cast in the entire 2016 election.

Iowans have until 5 pm Saturday, October 24 to request an absentee ballot. In order to make the deadline, voters should go in-person to their county auditor’s office to drop off their request form.

10:00 a.m. - 1,581 new COVID-19 cases, 23 new deaths reported Friday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Thursday, October 22

4:51 p.m. - Owner of truck with campaign flags has agreed to move it from Monona County voting location

The Monona County attorney says the man who parked a military-style vehicle decorated with campaign flags outside a voting site has agreed to move it.

The truck was parked right outside the courthouse during two days of early voting with a large “Trump 2020” sign and Trump flags. The county auditor says it was within the 300-foot zone where campaign signs are illegal under state law, and she was concerned about the message it was sending to voters.

In a statement, County Attorney Ian McConeghey said no criminal charges are expected at this time. Reached by phone and asked why he didn’t file charges, McConeghey said he wouldn’t comment beyond his emailed statement.

3:10 p.m. - Climate models predict heavy spring rains and summer droughts to continue

Climate models for Iowa indicate extremes such as heavy spring rains and summer droughts are likely to continue. The state climatologist is recommending farmers adapt.

Some of Iowa’s climate records stretch back to the mid-1800s. That’s why state climatologist Justin Glisan can say August 2020 was the driest in Iowa in 148 years. In a question-and-answer session with the Iowa Farmers Union, Glisan said other increasing extremes, such as cold spells and heavy rain events, are also affecting farmers.

He says climate shifts now allow for corn-growing farther north and favorable conditions for hemp in Iowa.

3:07 p.m. - New system tracks storage and testing of rape kits

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has completed the rollout of a statewide reporting system that tracks the storage and testing of rape kits. The system is aimed at creating transparency in sexual assault investigations.

Assault survivors will be given access to a website that will show them when an evidence kit is taken by law enforcement and processed at the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation laboratory.

Shannon Knudsen of the Mid-Iowa Sexual Assault Response Team says it saves victims from having to contact police investigators to get that information.

The new system comes as the state works through a backlog of untested rape kits from across the state. The Iowa Attorney General’s office reports more than 1,600 kits will be processed. However, more than 2,000 additional kits were not considered eligible for testing.

10:05 a.m. - Republican Randy Feenstra took on Democrat J.D. Scholten at 4th Congressional District debate
The Green New Deal was a major point of contention at Wednesday’s 4th Congressional District debate. It was the candidates’ first and likely only televised debate before election day.

The Green New Deal was introduced by Democratic House members last year and lays out a plan to tackle climate change and income inequality. Republicans argue it would overregulate Iowa’s ag. industry.

Republican Randy Feenstra has been running ads accusing Democrat J.D. Scholten of supporting this resolution. During the debate at WHO-TV in Des Moines, he brought up a couple of Scholten’s tweets from early 2019. Scholten says the Green New Deal was an idea at that time.

Scholten is running for the district for a second time after he narrowly lost to Congressman Steve King in 2018. Feenstra beat the nine-term Congressman in the June primary.

10:00 a.m. - 1,401 new COVID-19 cases, 15 new deaths reported Thursday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:42 a.m. - Officials work to remove truck with campaign flags from voting location

Officials in western Iowa’s Monona County are working to remove a vehicle adorned with campaign flags that’s parked too close to a voting location.

A photo of the military-style truck from Wednesday shows it parked right outside the county courthouse with a large “Trump 2020” sign and two Trump flags.

Monona County Auditor Peggy Rolph says the truck first appeared Wednesday morning, was moved in the afternoon, and was back Thursday morning with more flags on it. She says it’s parked within the 300-foot zone where campaign signs are illegal under state law, and she’s concerned about the message it sends to voters.

Rolph says the county attorney is trying to figure out if they can tow the truck, and they’re also waiting for information from the ethics board. The ethics board says it doesn’t have jurisdiction over signs for federal candidates.

9:30 a.m. - Iowa Supreme Court ruling upholds absentee ballot request law

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a new law governing how county auditors handle absentee ballot request forms can continue to be enforced in the final days of voting.

Republican legislators passed a law this summer banning election officials from using state databases to fix incorrect information on ballot request forms sent in by voters. The new law requires officials to instead contact the voter and verify the information, adding time and cost to the process.

A Latino civil right group and a Democratic-aligned nonprofit sued the state to try to block the law, stating it would make it harder for some Iowans to vote absentee.

The four-to-three ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court allows the law to stand as voting wraps up in the general election. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is this Saturday.

9:26 a.m. - Iowa prepares to battle COVID-19 this winter

Iowa saw its first snowfall this week, and with this winter weather will come an added layer of challenges for battling COVID-19.

Iowa is already in a vulnerable position with winter on the horizon. Daily case counts have been trending upward for weeks. Hospitalizations are at a record high. Public health experts have urged state leaders to increase mitigation efforts.

But Gov. Kim Reynolds says she currently has no plans to issue additional restrictions. At a press conference this month, she said the state’s healthcare system can handle a greater number of cases.

Brent Willet, president of the Iowa Health Care Association, says the state’s long-term care residents, who have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic, will be relying on the strength of this system this winter. He says it will be impossible to keep the virus out of facilities this winter.

University of Washington Epidemiologist Ali Mokdad also says this testing is crucial to tracking the spread of the virus this winter. But so is prevention, doing things like wearing masks and being really careful about who you see.

Wednesday, October 21

4:22 p.m. - Iowa has the ninth highest test positivity rate in the country, eight highest rate of new cases in the country

The newest White House Coronavirus Task Force report says Iowa has seen an increase in new COVID-19 cases and test positivity in the past week.

The newest report was released on Sunday and obtained by ABC News on Wednesday.

It once again put Iowa in the red zone for new cases, reporting the state had a rate of 238 new cases per 100,000 residents last week. That’s more than double the national average of 117, and means Iowa has the eighth highest rate in the country.

Its test positivity rate was between eight and ten percent last week, making it the ninth highest rate in the country.

Ninety percent of Iowa counties had moderate to high levels of community transmission.

The report recommended increasing mitigation efforts, and keeping public and private gatherings as small as possible in the 68 counties located in red or orange zones.

3:51 p.m. - Iowans who want to vote by mail must request ballot by 5 p.m. Saturday

Iowans who want to vote by mail must request a ballot by this Saturday.

Your county auditor must receive your absentee ballot request form by 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 if you want to vote by mail. Request forms can be printed out from the secretary of state’s website.

With such a short amount of time left until the deadline, voters should deliver the request form to their county auditor instead of sending it through the mail.

Election officials also recommend mailing your completed ballot as soon as possible. Voters can also deliver their ballots to the county election office themselves. Ballots must be postmarked by November 2 and received by November 9 to be counted.

This Saturday is also the deadline for voter pre-registration. Iowans who miss that deadline can still register while voting in person early or on Election Day.

1:45 p.m. - Project aims to determine how the pandemic affects immigrant communities in Iowa

Nonprofit groups are teaming up to research how hard the pandemic has hit Iowa’s immigrant population. University of Northern Iowa graduate student Sam Habinck is working with DREAM Iowa and others to interview immigrants to find out how the pandemic has affected them financially and mentally. Habinck says the project isn’t just to point out issues caused by the pandemic but for health in general.

DREAM Iowa Founder Monica Reyes says they will release their findings in December. As of right now, DREAM Iowa is looking to hire surveyors to reach out to immigrants. The project leaders will finish hiring surveyors this Friday, Oct. 23. Habinck says she hopes to analyze interviews of at least 50 immigrants.

11:20 a.m. - Healthcare worker unions call for state leaders to step up

Unions representing health care workers at one of Iowa’s largest hospitals are calling on state leaders to step up as COVID-19 hospitalizations reach a record high.

Leaders of the local chapters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union, which represent workers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, say leadership is lacking in Iowa right now.

The joint statement released Wednesday called on state leaders to ensure health care workers have the personal protective equipment and resources needed to care for COVID-19 patients. They criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to spend $20 million in CARES Act funding to upgrade a computer system, saying that money is needed for patients.

More than 600 UIHC employees have been infected with the coronavirus. This week the state reported the number of Iowans hospitalized with the virus passed 500, a new record.

10:00 a.m. - 1,276 new COVID-19 cases, 31 deaths reported Wednesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Tuesday, October 20

4:54 p.m. - Some University of Iowa football players plan to kneel for national anthem at team's first game

Some University of Iowa football players plan to kneel during the national anthem at the team’s first game of the season against Purdue University this weekend.

The step is meant to protest racial inequality at a time when athletes across the country have become increasingly vocal on the issue.

Hawkeye Football has been roiled by allegations of racial discrimination by coaches, and is bracing for a potential lawsuit from former players.

Head Coach Kirk Ferentz would not directly comment on the pending legal action Tuesday. But he said the program is listening to players’ concerns and is making changes.

4:43 p.m. - Iowa's COVID-19 hospitalizations trend upwards

Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record high this week. The state’s hospitalization numbers have been trending upwards for the past month.

COVID-19 hospitalizations passed 500 this week, according to the state’s coronavirus website. It’s the fifth time the state has set a new record for daily hospitalizations this month.

Jorge Salinas, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says he fears if numbers continue to rise at this rate, it could overwhelm hospitals like his.

At a press briefing last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state’s hospitals reported they’re able to handle the increase so far.

11:38 a.m. - House works toward another coronavirus relief package

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican administration are continuing to work toward another coronavirus relief package. Iowa’s senior senator remains hopeful more aid can be approved before Election Day.

Time is short, but Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says the upper chamber should vote on its bill, with or without some amendments. If it passes, a conference committee can then find a compromise between the House and Senate versions.

The two bills differ widely in dollar amounts and details, but Grassley says most of the spending proposed in the senate version has bipartisan support.

11:14 a.m. - Brown and Black Forum of Iowa discusses voter participation in roundtable discussion

Promoting voter participation was one of the key topics at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Black and Brown Forum of Iowa. Drake University students say they have not had trouble accessing voting resources, but former felons say access remains a top concern for them as Election Day looms. Jeff Wallace is now a state inspector and works with juvenile detention centers. He says it’s still confusing for former felons who have had their voting rights restored.

The speakers at the forum say they are concerned their voting rights could still be taken away in the future.

In early October, the state launched a new website to help former felons navigate the process. Find more information at https://restoreyourvote.iowa.gov/.

10:00 a.m. - 727 new COVID-19 cases, 14 new deaths reported Tuesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:26 a.m. - More than three million acres of corn damaged by derecho

Farmers are wrapping up the harvest and finally seeing how much of the corn damaged by the derecho in August actually made it into the bin. More than three million acres of corn in Iowa got slammed by high winds.

Agronomist Ben Hollingshead with Key Cooperative in Kelly says any factor credited with helping a certain field should be tempered with some skepticism.

He says most damaged fields were covered by crop insurance, which farmers told him they were grateful to have.

Monday, October 19

3:35 p.m. - State Auditor Rob Sand says the governor's spending of CARES Act money is not allowed

State Auditor Rob Sand has informed Gov. Kim Reynolds that her use of federal pandemic relief funding to help pay for an HR and accounting software system is not allowed under the CARES Act.

Sand, a Democrat, says he worked with the U.S. Treasury Office of the Inspector General to confirm his conclusions.

Reynolds used $21 million dollars to help pay for the contract with Workday that was signed in 2019, before the pandemic. Her office has said this fits with the CARES Act’s requirement for spending to be related to the pandemic, even though the software system isn’t supposed to go live until nearly a year from now.

Sand says Reynolds should direct that money to pandemic relief efforts allowed by the CARES Act. Sand’s office also determined Reynolds’ use of nearly $450,000 for her existing staff is questionable.

12:17 p.m. - Des Moines rally celebrated Black women voters this weekend

With just over two weeks of voting left, Black women gathered at a rally in Des Moines over the weekend to celebrate and encourage voting. Organizers believe it’s likely the first such event in the area.

Speakers at the Black Women Voters Rally encouraged Black women to not only vote, but also to get others to the polls and to seek leadership positions in the community. Black women nationwide often turn out to vote at a rate higher than the national average.

Reyma McCoy McDeid says she wanted to sponsor the event because she wants to see Black women in Iowa prioritized in the political process.

Several voters at the rally said they’re getting more involved in voter participation efforts this year.

11:39 a.m. - The University of Iowa will not fire head football coach after racial discrimination allegations

The University of Iowa says it will not fire head football coach Kirk Ferentz, as demanded by Black former players who allege widespread racial discrimination within the program.

Eight former players, represented by a Tulsa-based civil rights law firm, have also called for the firing of Athletic Director Gary Barta, and for the school to pay out $20 million in damages.

Sunday night the UI declined to meet those demands, pointing to other steps taken to address mistreatment in the program.

The players’ lawyers have said they plan to file a lawsuit and a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights.

10:00 a.m. - 508 new COVID-19 cases, six new deaths reported Monday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:53 a.m. - Elementary students return to in-person learning at Des Moines Public Schools

Des Moines Public Schools is welcoming back elementary students in-person Monday morning for the first time since school started last month.

Just under 60 percent of students will attend in-person under the district’s hybrid plan. Families were also given the choice to stay in virtual learning.

DMPS fifth grade teacher Courtney Starbuck will have 7 to 10 students in her classroom at a time. She says she wants them to feel welcome, but the risk of spreading the coronavirus is in the back of her mind.

DMPS will switch middle schools to hybrid learning next week and high schools on November 10. At that point the district will meet state requirements to provide at least half of instruction in-person.

9:40 a.m. - Nature Conservancy will vaccinate bison Tuesday

The Nature Conservancy in Iowa will round up the bison at a northwest Iowa preserve Tuesday to give them their vaccinations. They’re also selling dozens of bison to producers to keep the numbers down at the preserve.

In 2008, The Nature Conservancy in Iowa brought 28 bison to Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve. Today, Broken Kettle has 275 bison. The Nature Conservancy’s Graham McGaffin says that’s a little more than they’d like to have, so they’re selling 72 bison to producers after they get their checkups and vaccinations.

The bison are genetically pure, which means there’s no evidence that they have any cattle genes mixed in. They were brought to Broken Kettle to help control invasive species. Their grazing also helps open up the grass so plant species can grow and provide habitat to birds and butterflies.

9:38 a.m. - Six community leaders placed into Iowa's Latino Hall of Fame

This past weekend six community leaders were recognized and placed into Iowa’s Latino Hall of Fame.

The organizers of the fourth annual Latino Hall of Fame ceremony are used to hundreds of people filling up the room at the Des Moines Art Center, but this year was different. The event was live streamed for those who would have attended if it weren’t for the pandemic.

Among the three Iowa Latinos inducted into the Hall of Fame, three more people were honored with a youth leadership award, an equity and justice award and for the first time, an LGBTQIA leadership award.

9:36 a.m. - Kamala Harris calls on Democrats to vote at Liberty and Justice Celebration

With just over two weeks until Election Day, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris called on members of her party in Iowa to volunteer and get out the vote. The California Senator was the headlining speaker Sunday night at the Liberty and Justice Celebration, an annual fundraiser for the state Democratic party, which was virtual this year because of the pandemic.

Polls have shown Joe Biden and President Trump locked in a tight race in Iowa. Biden has not campaigned in the state since before coming in fourth in the Iowa caucuses in February. President Trump held a rally at the Des Moines airport last week.

Sunday, October 18

10:00 a.m. - 2,510 new COVID-19 cases, seven more deaths reported this weekend in Iowa

On Sunday, 915 new cases were announced, in addition to two more deaths. On Saturday, the state logged 1,595 cases and five more deaths. The state's hospitalization rate has fallen since last week slightly, from a high of 482 Iowans hospitalized on Oct. 15, but it remains high.