For the first time in Iowa's history of presidential elections, a new rule regarding absentee ballots could delay accurate results up to a week after the elections.
Ballots being returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Monday, Nov. 5. That's the rule that threatens results on election night.
Ballots could keep arriving in the mail for days after the polls close.
Dubuque County auditor Denise Dolan said a postmark cutoff the day before the election could delay the official results of close races, which, of course, include the presidential race here in this important swing state.
"I mean, that's why, if you get a ballot, you know, turn it around and get it back as soon as possible," Dolan said. "After election day, we need to look for that postmark, and if that postmark isn't there, it won't be counted."
Mail-in ballots could make a big difference in Iowa. So far in Dubuque County, for example, more than a quarter of the 65,000 registered voters have requested mail-in ballots, and there is still more than a week to make that request.
Barb Hodgson of Dubuque came to the Dubuque County auditor's office Wednesday afternoon to vote early and in person.
"You don't have much of a hassle. It's more convenient," Hodgson said. "If you don't know who you want to vote for, I would wait. But if you know who you want to vote for, then do it as soon as possible."
She's not alone in early voting. Between the mail-in ballot requests, military ballots and early voting in person, Dubuque County has had more than 20,000 voters opt to cast their ballot ahead of election day. Dolan said that has already exceeded all early voting that took place in Dubuque County in the 2008 general election.
Statewide, county auditors won't have official results until they canvass the votes on either the Tuesday or Wednesday following election night.
"In Iowa, the rule is: once the election has been canvassed and we have final, official results, then, if an election is within one percent difference, you can have a recount without any cost to the candidate," Dolan said.
That means the earlier a voter can mail in his or her ballot or come vote early in person, the more accurate and complete the results will be on election night.
However, Dolan said she stresses that "the results that come in Tuesday night, November sixth, are unofficial."
Folks in Dubuque County who want to vote early can do so by either requesting a mail-in ballot from the Dubuque County auditor's office or casting a ballot in person.
There's a satellite voting location on Thursday, Oct. 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Loras College Athletic Wellness Center. That's on Cox Street, south of 17th street.
On Friday, Oct. 26, Dubuque County voters can cast their ballot from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Westminster Fellowship Hall at 2155 University Avenue.
The Election Annex at 707 Central Avenue, across from the Dubuque County Courthouse, is open for registering to vote and early voting from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Dubuque County election office is reachable at 563.589.4457.
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