Iowa Secretary of State, Linn County officials encourage voting from home ahead of June primary

Zak Neumann/Little Village

Linn County is preparing for the June 2 primary — which is still scheduled to happen, but with various changes due to COVID-19.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said that his office sent out absentee ballot request forms to every household in the county. During a Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Miller said 1,500 forms were returned as of Tuesday. (The absentee ballot request form is also online.)

Miller said the number is “great news — we hope there’s that many every day.”

“We’re certainly encouraging everyone to request an absentee ballot and vote at home in order to avoid contact with either our PEOs — our precinct election officials — or other voters on Election Day,” Miller said.

Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate is also encouraging voters — especially older voters — to vote by mail in order to continue social distancing and limit the spread of the virus.

Iowans are able to request an absentee ballot through May 22. Pate expanded the mail-in voting period from 29 days to 40 days, which means county auditors will begin mailing absentee ballots next week on April 23.

“The June 2 primary election will go on as scheduled because it’s important for Iowans to make their voices heard by voting,” Pate said in a news release. “The safest way to vote will be by mail.”

Pate’s office plans to mail an absentee ballot request form to every active registered voter in the state with prepaid postage for return mailing.

With Linn County residents receiving absentee ballot forms from both the state and the county, Miller told the Gazette he hopes it will “reinforce to voters that they need to vote at home.”

However, there will still be in-person absentee voting available starting on May 4, as well as in-person voting on June 2. The number of polling places in Linn County will be reduced from 86 to 19 on June 2.

The county is looking at in-person absentee voting locations, including Cedar Rapids Lumber Co, a lumber store the county bought and took possession of within the last few weeks.

“As of yesterday and today, we are looking at the possible use of the lumber yard across the street [from the Jean Oxley Public Service Center], which the county just purchased, as a temporary place to conduct either curbside-only voting or counter voting,” Miller said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Miller said they are currently looking if the location could meet ADA requirements for in-person voting. He noted that the requirements are “quite stringent” but that the “Secretary of State can grant exceptions on an emergency temporary basis.”

“We have some hurdles to overcome to utilize that site, but it seems like it would keep people that don’t need to be entering the building out of the Public Service Center, whether it is open or is not open,” Miller said. “It should reduce the traffic into that building, and thereby hopefully reduce any transmission of COVID-19 to people.”

A complete list of the state and local races Linn County voters will see on the ballot can be found online, and more information on absentee voting can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

Johnson County residents who don’t want to wait to get their absentee ballot request form in the mail can access the form online. The county’s Auditor Travis Weipert is also encouraging residents to vote by mail.