Early voting begins Thursday in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Early voting begins Thursday in Iowa

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Thursday marks forty days to Election Day. It's also the start of early voting in Iowa.

We caught up with election workers Trudy Marovets and Dianne Shoultz, who are becoming pros at stuffing envelopes.

"You have to have a sense of humor, we decided," said Marovets. "We find some of the names to be interesting -- we thought, if you were having a baby, this would be a good way to get some new names!"

All joking aside, they consider prepping absentee ballots for mail an important role in the election process.

"We both feel like this is a service we can give," said Shoultz.

A growing number of people are taking the county up on that service. According to Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder, about a third of voters cast their ballots early in 2008, and the majority voted for Barack Obama.

"Democrats have organized around absentee voting more so than Republicans," said Veeder.

About 9,500 absentee requests were filed in Black Hawk County as of Wednesday. Two-thirds of those are from registered Democrats.

The push for absentee voting is only one way the Democratic Party is working to encourage a vote for President Obama. They're also petitioning for an increased number of satellite voting locations.

"Satellite locations, that's something Iowa law started doing roughly 15 years ago," said Veeder.

In the past, few people have taken advantage of the right to petition for a particular satellite location. It requires 100 signatures and a site which is accessible to handicap and elderly voters. In 2008, there was one petition filed in Black Hawk County. This year there are seven.

"The Obama campaign has petitioned for six of the sites that we're using, the Romney campaign for one," said Veeder.

Most of the Democrat-petitioned sites are on the University of Northern Iowa campus. One is timed, accordingly, with Michelle Obama's visit Friday. But party-affiliation doesn't matter. The satellite location, like absentee voting, is open to everyone.

The intent is to make voting accessible, and that's something Marovets and Shoultz appreciate, even at 9,000 envelopes... and counting.

"I think it opens up voting for people who may not be able to go to the polls. They can vote in the comfort of their own home. And it may be a lot more work on this end, but I think it helps and increases voter participation," said Shoultz.

You can get a list of satellite voting locations from your county auditor's office. If you prefer to vote at home, you can apply for an absentee ballot now through November 2nd -- the Friday before Election Day. The ballot must be postmarked by the Monday before Election Day.

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