Estherville Rotarians got a pretty good rundown of the voting process in Iowa from Emmet County Auditor Michele Erickson.
For starters, absentee voting began Sept. 27 and runs until 5 p.m. Monday - that's according to Iowa state law.
And if you consider yourself an independent, well, you're actually 'no party'.
As the election looms (and if you work for the auditor's office, that word takes on a whole new dimension), election workers are getting ready for a big job - helping people vote in what is just about always the biggest election every four years - the one for President.
And, just as Emmet County gears up for it, the county is also getting a fiber optic Internet line. Erickson said the county won't convert over to the new line before the election in case there should be glitches.
To date, there are 1,220 active absentee ballots either sent out, in people's hands or returned to the auditor's office. That compares with 1,329 absentee ballots cast four years ago, putting the current trend a little behind then. While there are Iowa county auditors who have gone past the number of absentee ballots sent out in 2008, that does not appear to be the case for Emmet County this year, Erickson said, noting that the lack of locally contested elections could be a reason. Voters will have all day Saturday - from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - as well as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to return their absentee ballots.
While some states require a waiting period between voter registration - 30 days in Arkansas - and voting, Erickson said Iowans can register at the polls. A drivers license will help immensely. Otherwise, an out-of-state drivers license with a current utility bill with an Emmet County address will work. A photo ID will not be required, however, of those who vote on a regular basis - more often than every eight years. Women who change their name when they're married or people who move between precincts will also need to change their registration.
When the question came up regarding voter fraud, Erickson said the object is to not make it impossible for people to vote. "Do we really have a representative democracy," she posited as the reason for making it relatively easy for people to vote. For example, college students can choose to vote either at their permanent or college residence.
Erickson gets ballots from places such as China, France and Germany - missionaries, for instance, who still consider Emmet County their permanent home. "If they don't vote here, they don't vote," she explained.
One of the most rewarding experiences of her job is seeing first-time voters. "It's really quite an event," she said.
Erickson said she also hopes people take their voting responsibility seriously - by not writing in the names of cartoon characters, for example.
"Please don't write in stupid things on your ballots," she requested.
She said it takes an enormous amount of time to compile those 'humorous' write-ins.