Election time is here; county auditor explains how it all works

Lynn Marr-Moore, Contributing Writer
Story County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Lucy Martin and Kevin Norris, Story County Deputy Auditor of Elections work in the “war room” at the Story County Auditor's Office.

It’s election time in Story County. Candidates on the national level have become a family member. Turn on the television, open up your Internet and there they are. They want to be your best friend, they want you to know who they are and most importantly, they want your vote.

But what about our state and local officials wanting your vote. The Nov. 8 general election may leave many questions to voters. Let’s take a look at what is happening right now in Story County.

The go-to person in Story County is Lucy Martin, auditor and commissioner of elections. Martin recently took some time to answer a few routine questions.

“There are two questions to ask yourself to prepare for election day,” explains Martin.

The first is, “Am I registered at my current address in Story County?”

“If you are, then you have nothing to worry about,” she said. “If you are not or you don’t know, it’s really easy to get registered. You can complete a registration form online. You can use MyIowaVote.com to register or simply call our office, 515-382-7210.”

Martin explained that the preregistration deadline is Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. Forms must be received in the Story County Auditor’s Office by this time. After Oct. 29, the election day registration regulations apply.

“The second question you need to ask is if you know the location of your polling place,” said Martin. “If you know where you go in person to vote, you are ready to go to the polls on Nov. 8. If the answer is no, or you are not sure, there are ways to figure out where you should go to vote.”

Martin said she encourages people to check the polling place information listed on their voter card, as well as to call the auditor’s office and they will help you figure it out.

If you have chosen to vote with an absentee ballot and you have your ballot in hand, just follow the instructions included, vote and mail it back in the envelope provided.

So, you ask, what happens to your ballot once you have voted and mailed it back?

Martin explained that the auditor’s office examines your affidavit and return envelope to make sure that it is sealed and signed. If they see a problem, they will contact you by letter with instructions about how to fix the issues.

If everything is in order, your sealed ballot is securely stored for counting on election day. “The ballots are opened the Monday before the election, but are not counted until election day,” explains Martin. “We will have 25,000 or more to open. The absentee board does this and counts them. As of Oct. 12, we had 10,262 absentee ballots in our office. Eighty percent of those were sent to us via mail.”

Martin explained that the ballots are run through a machine and tabulated after the polls close at 9 p.m.

“We check the obituaries every single day,” told Martin. “If there has been a death of a registered voter, we will take their names off the poll records.”

Walk-in voting is currently taking place at various locations in Story County. Locations include various places on the Iowa State University campus, Ames Public Library, Ascension Lutheran Church, Human Services Center, Hy-Vee West and at the Story County Auditor’s Office.

“Fifty-five percent of our registered voters will go to their voting location on election day,” said Martin. “Iowa State University students can either register here in Story County or return to their home districts to vote.”

An interesting fact about the candidates running here in Story County is that there are only two candidates who are not affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party in Iowa. According to Martin, they are Wayne Clinton, who is running for Story County Supervisor and Mike Knox, who is a candidate for Iowa House of Representatives.

“These two candidates are running for election in the State of Iowa on a nomination petition,” said Martin. “This would be an independent or a non-major party candidate to gain ballot access.”

When Wayne Clinton was asked why he was running on a non-party ticket he commented: “For me, it was a matter of timing. Paul Toot’s untimely death was the main reason I started to reassess my decision to retire at the end of this year. I, along with many people, recognized that losing two-thirds of the board in a six-month period could positively negatively impact the progress we had made and some future projects that were in the works. Several people reached out to me to seek re-election, and I finally listened. The option available since the primary had passed, and since both parties had elected their candidate, was to have my name on the ballot in November running as a no party candidate, nominated by petition. Some even considered launching a ‘write-in’ campaign. I felt the best option was to get my name on the ballot so voters would have a choice based on my past leadership, service and results. I have been a lifelong Democrat and am proud of that affiliation, though party politics is not a factor here at the county level.”

When Mike Knox was asked why he was running on a non-party ticket he commented: “We need non-party representation. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a candidate that takes the political rhetoric out of the system? That’s why I’m running non-party, non-affiliated and also strictly on my own funds. Non-party will allow me the freedom to work on issues at the state level without party interference and at the same time be working directly on behalf of only the people. Voters deserve better representation than what the parties currently provide. Bill-blocking; finger-pointing; they, them and those; name calling or grandstanding on behalf of a party can be counterproductive for the voter. I’ve seen it, voters have seen it and who does anything about it? If we knew half of the issues we would like addressed that get treated from a political aspect instead of from the voter’s aspect, we would be amazed. Besides, it’s also the only way I personally can run, since I am unable to fully support the Republican or Democratic platforms. I must be true to myself and I want to represent the voters in the same fashion. Pick a person, not a party.”

Martin mentioned again that every vote counts. “A persistent myth is that the absentee ballots are only counted in the races that are close,” said Martin. “All on-time, signed and sealed absentee ballots are considered.”

Although many people only think about elections at the time of the election, Martin said that she is different. “I think about elections every day of the year,” she said.

Elections date back to colonial America, when the first ones were held for the election of church and public offices. They date back to Plymouth Colon,y using a paper ballot, when the governorship in Massachusetts was decided back in 1634. Under the United States Constitution, the right to hold elections is specified. However, the method and place are left up the individual states, with Congress having the power to alter the regulations.

Whether you vote now or do it on election day, this is one of your basic freedoms, so use it.