While there's no dispute that a satellite voting station is allowed in Iowa elections, there does appear to be some confusion as to the cost to the county.
Emmet County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Mikki Erickson told the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that two satellite absentee voting station petitions have been circulating in the county. A satellite station is open before election day with the location determined by the party requesting the location. The station must be open for a minimum of six hours. The auditor determines the date and time of the election.
According to information Erickson provided to the supervisors Tuesday:
n Members of the public have the right to petition for satellite voting stations, whether the auditor decides to establish satellite voting or not.
n Petitions must be signed by no less than 100 eligible Emmet County electors.
n Satellites must be accessible to elderly and disabled voters and the arrangement inside the satellites must allow voters to vote in secrecy and protect the security of the ballots.
According to Erickson, "I believe there is some misinformation regarding the cost of satellite voting stations to the Emmet County taxpayers. There will be both real costs and extra work in the Auditor's Office."
Erickson estimated that cost would be between $1,500 and $1,650 for one satellite voting station in Armstrong and one in Estherville.
If anyone feels he or she did not fully understand or was incorrectly advised of the petition's intent and would like to withdraw a signature, the individual must personally contact the person who solicited the individual's signature and request that the signature be removed. Erickson said that must be done before the petition is submitted to the auditor's office.
Erickson said the Romney campaign had contacted the auditor's office three times and said they will petition for one satellite voting station in Armstrong and one in Estherville.
"The people signing the petitions are being told there would be no cost (for the satellite locations) and it will not involve the auditor's office," said Erickson, adding that if the petitions are delivered to her office she will have to revise the election budget.
"I would like the Emmet County taxpayers to know that this is happening," Erickson said.
Supervisor Jon Martyr said people have a right to request the satellite voting location.
Erickson agreed, adding, "People are being told there is no cost to the taxpayer and the auditor's office is not involved and that's not true."
Erickson said the original intent of satellite voting locations is for shift workers.
"It's not to hold random elections in rural counties where the need is minimal," Erickson said.
Martyr said though it made him uncomfortable to oppose those who had a right to request the satellites.
Supervisor Alan Madden noted people need to understand there is a cost.
"They want all these extra things done but they don't want to pay for it," Madden said.
Erickson said voters also have the option of voting absentee. Call the auditor's office at (712) 362-4261 for information about any election issue.