Auditors, Election Officials Making Changes To Comply With New Law

Orange City, Iowa — Some new election rules are in effect after Governor Reynolds signed a bill earlier this month. The law, among other things, shortens the number of days of the absentee voting period and closes polls an hour early on election day.

Sioux County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Ryan Dokter, who is also the president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors says the new law will present a few challenges.

(as said) “The reduction in days to vote absentee is the challenge especially on our end of things. As we line up election workers to help people vote, especially in those bigger elections. In the smaller elections I think, you know, the flow we’ll be able to handle those things as normal. But you know, when you’re talking about, you know, a presidential election, even a gubernatorial election, those times where people really come out and vote heavily, it’s going to present challenges for us and the voters too, they just need to be educated in terms of what their options are to vote. So if they’re voting… planning to vote by mail, you know, there’s only five days in which we can be mailing out ballots. So if they missed that window, then they’ll have to come to the courthouse and vote in person, leading up to the election or at the polling locations on Election Day. Also, the pre-registration deadline changed from 10 or 11 days prior to the election to 15 days prior to the election. So again, if they want to show up on those voter lists and present their ID and vote at the polling locations on Election Day, getting pre-registered is a thing that they should be looking into especially if you’ve moved or moved into the area.”

He says the provision that wilful disregard for the election law will be met with fines and jail time has him and other election officials a little concerned. He says he and the others in Sioux County try their best to follow the law and run fair elections.

Dokter says they did have a ballot dropbox in 2020, but with the new changes, he doesn’t think they’ll be able to do that again.

He tells us that a few years ago, the law changed that allowed polls to open at noon for smaller elections. But he says while that’s still a part of the code, there are now a very small number of elections that would be allowed to start at noon. He says the great majority now require the polls to open at 7:00 a.m. But now with this new law, there will be one less hour to vote in the evening. However, he says from the poll worker point of view, that was a welcome change.

(as said) “For the primary and general elections only, we were open until 9 p.m. As the Association of Counties… that’s been one of our priorities for a number of years is to bring consistency to polling location hours and bring that down to 8 p.m. And so we’re happy with that change because election day for us and our folks who are working elections is a really long day. Those people show up by 6:00 a.m. to the polling locations and they leave when they’re finished at the end of the night. So, you know, at times it could be pushing 10:30, 11 o’clock, and many of the folks working those lines are 60 and above. So it’s just a tremendously long day for those folks to work and stay sharp. So, yeah, we were happy with reducing that down to 8 p.m.”

Dokter says voters should pay attention to official sources when it comes to election information. Friends on social media may not have the right, up-to-date information, especially at this point when changes have been made. Dokter says the changes went into effect immediately when Governor Reynolds signed the bill, so all elections from now on will be affected by the changes.