The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

November 8, 2012

Wapello County early voting favors Democratic ticket

Siegel: Iowa should consider Oregon’s all-absentee process

OTTUMWA — While Democrats did not win every seat in Wapello County’s election Tuesday, absentee votes for Democrats nearly doubled those for Republicans.

“That was something the Democrats locally and nationally focused on,” said Wapello County Supervisor Steve Siegel. “We have for several years, but this year I think it was more methodical, a comprehensive effort that really paid off.

“I don’t think the Republicans pushed it as long or as hard as the Democrats did.”

In the presidential election in the county, President Barack Obama won 4,302 absentee votes, versus 2,381 for Mitt Romney.

The county also saw 2,249 Democratic straight-party absentee ballots vs. 787 Republican straight-party absentee ballots.

Four other area races followed suit in terms of absentee voting:

• U.S. Congressional District 2: Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa City: 4,167; John Archer, R-Bettendorf: 2,255

• Senate District 40: Tim Tripp, D-Pella: 520; Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa: 383

• House District 80: Joe Judge, D-Albia: 560; Larry Sheets, R-Moulton: 357

• House District 81: Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa: 3,860; Blake Smith, R-Ottumwa: 1,857

Wapello County Auditor Kelly Spurgeon said absentee voting is up from the 2008 election. In 2008, more than 6,100 absentee ballots were cast, but this year, more than 6,800 in the county voted absentee.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad,” Spurgeon said. “We have a lot of people who wanted to absentee vote because they didn’t want to stand in line on Election Day. But then unfortunately they had to stand in line when they came to our office to [early] vote.”

In President Barack Obama’s victory speech Tuesday night, he said, “I want to thank every American who participated in this election ... whether you voted for the very first time ... or waited in line for a very long time ... by the way, we have to fix that.”

“I don’t know exactly what he means, but Iowa ought to give the Oregon system a close look,” Siegel said.

In Oregon, all elections are conducted by mail. According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s website, voters who are registered by the 21st day before an election are mailed a ballot to vote and return by Election Day.

“Vote-by-mail” was approved on a limited basis by the Oregon Legislature in 1981. It became a permanent feature of some elections in 1987 and on Nov. 7, 2000, all elections became vote-by-mail after it was adopted by nearly 70 percent of voters in 1998.

“They don’t have Election Day, per se, so it actually saves money, it increases turnout and people avoid long lines,” Siegel said. “What’s not to like?”

Spurgeon said a study was done of Oregon’s absentee voting system and brought back to the Iowa Legislature several years ago.

“They weren’t in favor of it because they had just spent millions of dollars on voting equipment,” Spurgeon said.

Auditor offices across the state began using the equipment in 2006.

“We have to do some comparisons,” Spurgeon said, before any switch can be made. “What we spend on election workers, on postage. We put stamps on absentee ballots ahead of time, but we get a lot of return envelopes back to us hand-delivered. And we wouldn’t have to pay for programming for the machines we take out. But it would be a lot of work for us because we would be mailing everybody a ballot.”

While Siegel said he, along with many Americans, “have a certain nostalgia about Election Day,” absentee voting is becoming more and more popular. In fact, Siegel said he has voted absentee in the last few elections.

“I miss the Election Day thing, but I have my day free and I’m confident that my vote is in, there’s no last-minute unexpected events to keep me from voting,” he said.

One positive is Spurgeon would know how many ballots to order ahead of time.

“When we do it for Election Day, we order so many ballots for how many voted in the previous election,” she said. “We have an excess because we don’t know who’s going to vote and who doesn’t. It would maybe save on expenses of printing.”

Wapello County doles out nearly $70,000 every election.

Of that, $10,000 goes to election workers, $15,000 to absentee ballot envelopes, $15,000 to ballots, $17,000 on equipment, $4,000 on registration services and $6,000 on postage.

“In Oregon, they don’t have poll workers to pay,” Siegel said. “We also have to pay rent to the various churches and schools where we have polling places.”

Wapello County GOP chairwoman Trudy Caviness said part of the reason more absentee votes went to Democrats is simply because there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the county.

According to the auditor’s office, 43 percent of registered voters in the county are Democrat, 24 percent are Republican and 33 percent are either non-party, libertarian or green.

“[Wapello County] had requested 7,500 absentees, which obviously were not all returned by Monday,” Caviness said. “Of that number, we had a little over 1,700 Republican requests, a little over 4,100 Democrat requests and 1,600 no party requests.”

During election season, Caviness said her party tries to get out and talk to those who have either voted absentee in the past or who they believe won’t make it to the polls.

“The number of Republicans in the county is lower, obviously, than Democrats,” she said. “And Democrats seem to work harder to get people out early to vote on absentees than the Republicans do.”

While initial reports Tuesday night showed Romney winning the county, once absentee numbers came in, it was clear the race would go to Obama. Caviness said the same thing happened four years ago. John McCain was winning the race until absentee votes came in.

“So the absentee process is maybe a different philosophy — for lack of a better word — in how campaigns run their campaigns,” Caviness said. “I am not opposed to pushing early voting. I think it kind of takes the excuse that ‘I didn’t have time to vote’ away from people. But in my opinion, there is the potential of more problems with fraud in [absentee] voting than voting at the polls.”

1
Text Only
Ottumwa
  • 0424 OTT Pennsylvania construction color photo -M -T Penn Ave. construction begins Thursday

    OTTUMWA — Motorists are advised that Pennsylvania Avenue will be closing for Stage 1 of the Pennsylvania Avenue Reconstruction and Widening Project on Thursday. Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed from just downhill from the intersection with Jefferso

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • The most fun you ever had

    OTTUMWA — Not every child's idea will be possible — but every idea was recorded. "Kaboom" project manager Brenna Hull of the nonprofit group's San Francisco office was in Ottumwa Tuesday. She asked students at the Ottumwa school district what they'd like to see in a playground.

    April 22, 2014

  • 0423 OTT Recycle center color photo 2 -T -M Where every day is Earth Day

    OTTUMWA — Putting cans in the correct bin, saving electricity and adjusting the thermostat are not new concepts to the Ottumwa/Wapello Recycling Center staff. "We try to practice what we preach," said Janice Bain,

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0423 OTT lottery retailers graph -T -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 2

    OTTUMWA — We’ve all heard countless stories of lottery winners and losers. The winners, some of whom hold down multiple jobs, have modest dreams for now. One wants to buy a new home or car, another wants to pay of their debts or give to charity and e

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • 0422 OTT Lottery graph -T -L -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 1

    OTTUMWA — Despite a struggling economy — or perhaps because of it — Iowa lottery tickets sales have surged over the past decade in southeast Iowa. Since the lottery began 1985, its players have won more than $3.2 billion in prizes while the lottery h

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT OEDC director -T Guiding our growth

    OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar

    April 15, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National