Making sure that its supporters realize the importance of absentee voting this year, the Biden-Harris campaign’s Iowa branch brought the Early Vote Express bus to Waverly on Thursday.
While former Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t with the tour — as he was in Philadelphia to prepare for that night’s ABC town hall — a few in-state campaign staff members were present, as well as a local candidate for office. They gave away campaign swag, including T-shirts, yard signs, and especially for 2020, Biden-Harris-branded face masks.
Oliver Hidalgo-Wohleben, the Iowa coalitions director for the Biden-Harris campaign, said the turnout has been good for the Democratic efforts to get out the early vote.
“We’re about a week in or so, so this is one of our earlier, colder stops,” Hidalgo-Wohleben said. “Overall, we’ve had a positive response, and we’ve been hitting three spots a day, going across the state.”
The bus made two stops in Waverly Thursday morning. It pulled into the city lot at the intersection of First Street and First Avenue Northeast between City Hall and the former Mauer Eye Center building that was being used by Bremer County as a satellite early voting polling place, and an hour later, it moved to Wartburg College, where the school hosted a similar set-up in in McCaskey Lyceum that day.
Showing up at the city lot was Pam Egli, the Democratic candidate for Iowa Senate District 32. Campaign workers gave her two of the facemasks with the Biden-Harris logo, one of which she donned while transferring an elastic band from her leopard-print mask she originally wore.
“You need to have the elastic, so you can put it around your neck when you don’t have to have it on,” Egli said. “I’m proud to wear it, but I’ve got to get it ready, you know.
“Masks need to be able to wear like a necklace,” she added with a laugh.
Also on hand were Democratic supporters Tom and Debbe Baker. They had cast their votes the first day of the early voting period on Oct. 5. They were among the first ones to vote, though they said Egli was at the front of the line.
Tom Baker said getting out the early vote is an organizational challenge for both the Biden-Harris and Trump-Pence campaigns in these times affected by the novel coronavirus.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm around here,” Tom said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to get people out and get involved.”
Debbe Baker, who has helped Egli with her campaign against State Sen. Craig Johnson, R-Independence, said the early-voting period has been exciting so far.
“Voting is so important,” Debbe said. “The ability of us in Bremer County to vote early in-person or otherwise, I think the efforts by the Bremer County Auditor, Shelley Wolf, have been great, and I really appreciate everything that’s been done to make voting easy in Bremer County.”
Hidalgo-Wohleben said the Biden-Harris campaign is glad that Iowans have the chance to vote early, and county auditors having in-person sites like Mauer available are a good thing.
“We’re grateful that Iowans have that opportunity to vote over the course of a month, rather than just on one day,” Hidalgo-Wohleben said. “We think that’s important.
“We’re working with the city to make sure we’re parking where it’s appropriate, and we’re far enough away from a polling location, so there aren’t any issues (of electioneering).”
Debbe Baker said having the bus come to Waverly will help increase visibility for the voting process.
“When they go to Wartburg, if they can get more kids registered — young adults registered — and active in the voting process, good job,” she said.
“Any tool that you can come up with to get more people involved sooner,” Tom added. “Early Is one of the keys to the whole thing. It’s great. It’s helps a little bit here and there. It all adds up, and I think we’re going to have a good turnout.”