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Absentee ballot tracker

This screenshot from sos.iowa.gov shows how voters can keep an eye on whether their absentee ballot has been processed, sent and received by their local county auditor.

One week into the early-voting period in Iowa, county auditors across the state have seen a high volume of requests for absentee ballots.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office’s website, 703,768 Iowans have made their requests to vote ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, already outpacing 2016’s total of 693,709.

Bremer County Auditor Shelley Wolf estimated 4,600 that were requested before the Oct. 5 start of the early-voting period were sent, while as of Friday, the Secretary of State’s office has the total requested at 5,475 with 5,472 distributed and 1,280 completed and returned.

But someone tried to cast their ballot at the former Mauer Eye Center building, where Bremer County has set up in-person absentee voting to allow for social distancing, but their ballot was already mailed. Wolf believes that there could be some confusion about the early voting process.

“It’s one ballot per voter,” Wolf said. “We can’t give a person a second ballot.

“When they come here, and they want to vote in person, and they don’t have that ballot with them that they received in the mail, we’re asking them to either go home and vote that ballot and use the drop box or the mail to return that ballot, or if they want to vote here, they can bring it and vote here.”

The county’s drop box is located along the sidewalk in front of the north entrance to the Bremer County Courthouse along First Avenue Northeast. The Mauer site is located at 124 Second St. NE, about two blocks east of the courthouse.

However, Wolf said that voters could file a form stating that they lost their initial ballot, but they must have truly lost or misplaced it before the second ballot can be given.

“We’re tracking that, and it’s highly guarded,” she said. “Hopefully, everyone can understand why, if they get here and they have a ballot at home that we can’t just give them a second ballot.

“We’re here to help them. We want people to vote. It’s just understanding that if we’ve already issued a ballot, and you have it at home, and you know it’s at home, that is the ballot that we need you to vote.”

Voters can be sure that their requests have been processed and their ballots sent to them by using the absentee ballot tracker at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/absenteeballotstatus/absentee/search. By entering a name and birthdate, the website can show when the request was processed by the local auditor, mailed or given to the voter and the completed ballot was returned.

“The absentee ballot tracker on our website is an excellent resource,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate in an email to Waverly Newspapers Monday. “It shows when the county auditor received your absentee ballot request, when they mailed your ballot, and when they received your ballot. This tool lets Iowans track that ballot’s status all the way through the mailing process. It’s another step we’ve added to ensure the integrity of the vote and let Iowans’ know their vote will count.”

Wolf, the Bremer County auditor, said that if a ballot sent to a voter has been misplaced, lost or even thrown away, they can file a form that affirms what had happened.

“We’re tracking that, and it’s highly guarded,” she said. “Hopefully, everyone can understand why, if they get here and they have a ballot at home that we can’t just give them a second ballot.

“We’re here to help them. We want people to vote. It’s just understanding that if we’ve already issued a ballot, and you have it at home, and you know it’s at home, that is the ballot that we need you to vote.”

Of the more than 700,000 requests received statewide, 689,116 have been distributed both by mail and in-person as of Friday, according to the sos.iowa.gov website. With 2,056,085 actively registered voters, nearly 34.23% have made requests for absentee ballots so far.

The earliest date from the prior presidential election available, Oct. 17, 2016, had 367,232 requests received by auditors, 363,358 ballots sent and 175,996 returned statewide. In Bremer County at that point, there were 3,002 requests, 2,995 sent and 1,517 returned, with the final absentee requests totaling 5,799, with 5,794 sent and 5,552 returned.

Meanwhile, Butler County has 2,833 voters asking for an early ballot, all but one being sent out and 430 so far being completed and returned in the first week of early voting. At this point in 2016, there were 1,457 requested, 1,455 distributed and 594 returned, and the final tallies were 2,656 requests, 2,654 sent out and 2,571 received.

“Less than one week into the absentee voting period, we broke the state record for the amount of absentee ballot requests for an Iowa election,” Secretary Pate said. “This speaks well of the level of engagement Iowans have for this election, and shows there has been tremendous response to the statewide mailing of absentee ballot request forms sent by my office.”

He said voters shouldn’t worry about the security of their ballot.

“Iowans have options about how they choose to vote,” Pate said. “They can vote absentee through the mail, in-person at their county auditor’s office, or at the polls on Election Day. All three options are safe and secure.”