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State Government News

Iowa Voters Must Petition For Early Voting Sites Under New State Law

Organizers erected signs to draw attention to a one-day voting station at a Latino grocery in Des Moines. Satellite voting locations are designed to make early voting more convenient.
IPR File
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Satellite early voting locations like this one in Des Moines can only be established by petition under a new state law.

During this fall’s city and school board elections, Iowa’s county election officials will not get to choose where they set up early voting sites. It’s one of many changes the Republican-led Iowa Legislature made to the state’s election laws earlier this year.

County auditors are required to have early voting available in their office ahead of Election Day, which is Nov. 2 this year. In the past, they could choose to set up other sites, too, at places like libraries and college campuses.

Under the new law, these additional early voting locations can only be set up if at least 100 eligible voters sign a petition to establish a particular site.

“We always encourage people to go out and petition for sites, because obviously we want to promote voting,” Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said. “But at the same time, I would tell our citizens [to] call us…because we might be able to direct you to a better location where you’re going to get twice as many people than the spot you’re looking at.”

Weipert said in the past, he set up voting sites based on data about voter activity.

“You go through the data and say, ‘Okay, we had a satellite at this location four times now…and we only had 50 voters at most every time we’ve been there. Is it worth the cost to continue going there? Should we try somewhere else?’”

The deadline to submit a petition for an early voting site in this fall’s city and school board elections is 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 4.

Officials can reject petitions for a number of reasons listed in the new law. They include if the site isn’t accessible to elderly and disabled voters, and if the owner of the site doesn’t grant permission for an early voting site.

Weipert, a Democrat, said he doesn’t think the new law will cause Johnson County to have fewer voting sites as some petitions are already circulating. But he said he doesn’t know if that will be the case in the other 98 counties, and he said local officials are best positioned to make decisions about local voting sites.

This change and many other election law changes are being challenged in court by the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa.

Click here for the early voting site petition.

Find your county auditor here.