Oct 28, 2021 - News

Polk County's top election official warns of voter difficulties

A photo of Ankeny voters on election day last year.

Ankeny voters on election day last year. Photo: Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Polk County's top election official has warned supervisors that they expect to see voting difficulties ahead of Tuesday's election as new laws have narrowed the window for residents to cast ballots.

Why it matters: Just a handful of votes can shape an election. Remember U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks' six-vote win last year?

  • Fitzgerald predicts that the issues will likely intensify in the future — and if he's right, lots of voters could be disenfranchised.

Driving the news: Fitzgerald, a Democrat, asked the county Wednesday to evaluate the downtown office for ways to better accommodate large voter turnouts.

  • It's not ideal but a remodel could help reduce bigger problems before next year's statewide elections, he said.

State of play: Iowa is one of dozens of states where Republicans passed laws that restrict the times, places and locations where people can vote.

  • Iowa's early voting is now limited to 20 days, half of what it was four years ago.

Threat level: The voting changes and a surge of anti-vaccine extremism increases the likelihood for problems like brazen voter intimidation tactics, Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, told Axios.

  • Democrats are recruiting poll watchers at all 177 polling sites in Polk County to help prevent problems. It’s a first for a city/school election, he said.

Of note: Officials haven't warned of any safety issues, and Fitzgerald said this week that security measures are the same as they've been in the past.

The other side: Local Republicans don't believe the integrity of elections is under threat, Gloria Mazza, chair of the Polk Republicans, said. They aren't recruiting their own poll watchers.

  • "If there's really that many shenanigans then I think Iowa really has a problem," she said.

Thought bubble: Be prepared for potentially longer waits than in previous years.

  • Early in-person voting at county auditor offices is open through Nov. 1. (Polk's is at 120 2nd Ave, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm.)

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