Linn County residents have few options for early voting

I Voted Today stickers, shown Oct. 26, 2016. — photo by Zak Neumann

Early voting in Linn County for the Nov. 7 election began on Monday, but the only location where voters can currently cast a ballot in person is the Linn County Auditor’s office. The county announced two satellite early voting stations on Tuesday — the Cedar Rapids Public Library and the Hiawatha Public Library — but both those locations will only be open for one day later in the month.

Under Iowa law, setting up satellite early voting stations is left to the discretion of county auditors, according to Linn County Deputy Commissioner of Elections Rebecca Stonawski. Linn County citizens can request a location by submitting a petition. The petition must be signed by 100 voters in a jurisdiction. Monday was the last day to submit a petition for a satellite location for the coming election.

“It’s to ensure that there is interest in an area in having an early voting location,” Stonawski explained, when asked why the county uses petitions to locate early voting sites. “It’s more expensive per vote at a satellite location, than it is for voters to cast in-person absentee ballots at the auditor’s office.”

Two satellite locations is average for city elections in Linn County, Stonawski said. “During the 2016 election, Auditor [Joel] Miller authorized more satellite locations because it was anticipated that the turnout would be heavy,” she added.

Voters in Hiawatha will be able to cast a ballot at the Hiawatha Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 24, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Only ballots for the city of Hiawatha will be available.

Early voting at the main branch of the Cedar Rapids Public Library will take place the next day, Wednesday, Oct. 25, from noon to 6 p.m. Ballots for all the cities in the county, except Walford, will be available. Walford straddles the county line between Linn and Benton Counties, and its elections are supervised by Benton County.

All Linn County voters, except Walford residents, can cast an early vote at the auditor’s office in the Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids (935 Second St SW) until 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.