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Iowa Voters Could Set A Midterm Election Turnout Record Today

Michael Leland/IPR
Polls in Iowa are open until 9 tonight.

The Iowa secretary of state’s office says voter turnout has been robust so far today, and it’s possible Iowa could top its record of 1.13 million votes cast in a midterm election, set in 2014.  The state did set an early voting record for a midterm election: 529,000 votes cast. That’s about 57,000 more than in the 2014 midterm.  Secretary of State Paul Pate, who is running for reelection against Democrat Deidre DeJear, says both Republicans and Democrats had more early votes this year than in 2014.

In Woodbury County in western Iowa, more than 15,000 people voted early.  In a typical midterm election, about 30,000 people turn out of vote in the county.  County Auditor Pat Gill drove around to voting sites throughout the day. He says lines at the polls were long early this morning, but they seemed pretty typical by early afternoon.

“The initial rush was people wanted to get their votes cast as they were on their way to work,” he said. “That’s typically how it works but they were pleasantly surprised to see people waiting at 7:00 to cast their ballots.”

Some voters at a Lutheran church said they waited less than five minutes to cast their ballots.

Gill says his office has received some calls, mostly about voters who requested absentee but needed to void that request to cast their ballot in person.

There were a couple of new twists to the election this time around.  Voters in Iowa can no longer fill in one bubble and straight-ticket vote for one party. At a polling location in Waukee, Realtor Martha Aragon said that slowed her down just a bit.

“You have to fill it in like you’re taking a test instead of the straight party it took a little bit longer than it has in the previous years,” she said.

Also, the state is conducting a “soft roll-out” of the voter ID law.  Voters aren’t required to present an ID, but they might be asked for one. Nurse Mary Clark-Butts, who votes on Des Moines’s east side says it may have taken just a bit longer. 

“I think it ran just as smoothly as it did in the years past,” she said.

Voters who don’t have or don’t want to present an ID can instead sign an oath verifying their identity.

State and county officials are also working together to make sure voting is secure and voters can get the information they need.

“Today we’ll be monitoring cyber activities around the state for any escalation of cyber attacks,” said Jeff Franklin, Iowa’s chief information security officer.  “Some of these could include misinformation about voting locations, the voting process or results. Misleading phishing emails, texts or social media.”

Franklin says voters with questions should check with their local county auditor’s office, or the secretary of state’s election website.

“The public should disregard any email, text, or social media post that discourages or misleads you about when, where, or how to vote,” Franklin said.  “Check official sources for information.”

Franklin says there had been no election security issues around the state as of midday.  Polls in Iowa remain open until 9 tonight.

Editor's note: This story was updated with voters' coments at 5:00pm.