10th precinct voters

Wapello County voters fill out their general election ballots at the 10th Precinct at Life Church, Nov. 3, 2020, in Ottumwa. Life Church will again be a site for voting as the city/school election takes place Nov. 2.

OTTUMWA — A small room in the Wapello County Auditor's Office had a table partially full of stacks of ballots, including 45 different ballots just for Wapello County, to be exact.

And while that's a lot of ballots, it's a little deceiving. There aren't many changes in the election process for voters ahead of next week's city/school elections.

However, maybe one of the biggest changes this year has to do with absentee ballots. The office will accept them on Election Day until polls close at 8 p.m., but if voters want to mail their absentee ballot, deputy auditor Danielle Weller said they better send it well in advance.

"Postmarks do not count now for regular voters, so the post office says to allow for five days if you're going to mail it back," she said. "However, postmarks do apply for anyone that's in the military, or if someone is out of the country, or people in the Safe at Home program."

Weller said a bulk of the absentee requests came from Indian Hills Community College, which has a bond referendum that will be voted on in 17 counties as the school's boundary's seep into counties not considered in IHCC's region. For the referendum to pass, it will need at least 60% approval.

"There hasn't been a lot of confusion about the absentee requests," she said, noting that in even-numbered years there is some confusion because political parties send out requests to voters, who should only return one to the auditor's office.

Regarding the absentee ballots, Weller has one imperative.

"Sign the envelope by the red 'X'," she said.

Registered voters need only one form of identification to vote in person, and a valid driver's license usually suffices as proof of identity and residency. However, there can still be a need for two forms of identification.

"If you're brand-new and you're going to register to vote, you're going to have to prove who you are and where you live," Weller said. "An updated driver's license works as your two forms, but it's got to have a current name and current address on it.

"But sometimes people haven't done that step yet," she said. "So they need to bring something additional with that current address on it and their name, like a utility bill, a check stub, anything like that."

The Ottumwa city election is pretty straight-forward, but with one twist. Though top three vote-getters in the council race will be seated, the candidate with the most votes will be seated within 10 days of the canvass Nov. 9 because that person will be replacing Rick Johnson, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Skip Stevens, who resigned in August. The other two will take their seats in January.

The city will not have a runoff election because it had a primary election.

"A lot of cities don't have a primary or a runoff. They have one election in November and everyone's on the ballot," Weller said. "All the other cities in Wapello County has the primary election provisions if they're needed, except for Blakesburg.

"Since I've been here, other than the city of Eldon, nobody else has ever had a primary election. Eldon has maybe had one or two the whole time, where Ottumwa has only one time not had a primary."

While the ballots vary by school district and city, one ballot in Highland Township is unique. Some voters there will only be voting on the IHCC referendum — no city officials, no school officials, just the bond referendum.

"It can be confusing. Sometimes people get confused because they want to vote on the city stuff, but they can't because they don't live in the city," Weller said. "It just depends on what election that you're conducting and who gets to vote in it, because city elections are only for city residents."

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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