Mail-in ballots are not a new way of voting in Cedar County, but they have altered how its citizens go about voting. According to city clerk Dave Dowling, the popularity of these ballots has shown an increase in voting percentages, specifically in the eight out of 13 precincts that are all mail.
For the recent primary elections, Cedar County averaged 33.7 percent in registered voters turnout compared to the 35 percent average in 2016. Although it seems the percentage dropped, in individual precincts it increased immensely.
In the eight all-mail precincts, 45.9 percent of registered voters voted. In the five precincts with no mail ballots, only 27.6 percent of registered voters voted. There are nearly 4,000 registered voters in the precincts with no mail-in ballots compared to the nearly 2,000 citizens voting in all-mail precincts.
To be able to apply to become an all-mail precinct, first, the county must be under 10,000 population, Dowling said. Based on the last census, Cedar County is brimming at 8,564 citizens. Second, the precinct itself must be under 500 citizens.
Dowling does not foresee adding on more precincts unless the legislation changes the limited population of under 10,000.
“We are pretty much at the max,” Dowling said. “I may see if I can get the Wynot precinct in all-mail but I can’t guarantee that will happen because it depends on the secretary of state office. We have all the ones we can have at all-mail right now.”
The all-mail ballots eliminate the need for poll workers, polling places and auto mark machines, Dowling said, making the whole process much more cost effective. It is also helpful to citizens who have to travel far distances to vote. The ballots get sent out 22 days prior to election day with postage pre-paid and must be sent back by election day.
“You don’t have to lift a finger basically,” Dowling said. “It’s very convenient.”
Because of Cedar County’s success with the all-mail ballots and all the attractiveness of this system, Knox County has begun to utilize this tactics for its elections.
It being Knox County’s first year using these ballots, Joann Fischer said three precincts used the system to vote. These precincts were also the most voted and had larger turnouts compared to the 2016 and 2014 elections, Fischer said.
“I thought it went well,” she said. “It’s a learning experience because it was our first time. There were some things that we now know and we need to try for the general to make it go a little smoother.”
The Verdigre area precinct had the largest turnout for their elections with 58 percent of the registered voters voting.
Despite the few old-fashioned wishing to physically vote at the polls, Fischer heard many comments of how convenient the system was. Although Fischer currently does not have any plans to add any more precincts to the mail-in ballot system, she might in the future depending on the general election and legislation.
“I’ll see how things go in the general because we had a few precincts that had a very very low turn out surprisingly in the primary. I’m not sure the reason, so I’m going to do a little checking on that and come 2020 we may look into [more mail-in ballots].”