As is often the case with primary elections, voter turnout was low Tuesday.
Only 2,684 of Council Bluffs’ 40,018 registered voters — about 6.71% — participated, according to the Pottawattamie County Auditor’s Office.
Of those, 2,427 cast their ballots on Election Day, and 257 voted by absentee ballot.
Voter turnout is the reason the decision was made to combine city and school elections in Iowa, according to Secretary of State Paul Pate.
“This is the first time we have held city and school elections at the same time,” he said. “For some reason, city and school elections have not seen very good participation. By putting the two together, it’ll be an incentive for people to participate.”
For example, school elections often draw only 3% to 5% of registered voters, Pate said. He is confident that percentage will increase with the combined elections.
“We can definitely get more than 5%,” he said. “Each cycle is going to get a little bit better.”
Pate said it’s important for county auditors to remind voters that this fall’s general election is not just for city folks.
“They have to remind our country cousins that they have something to vote for,” he said.
A couple of the other changes in the state’s voting laws were also made to increase participation, Pate said.
“Iowa is one of the few states where you can register online,” he said.
To register, visit voterreadyiowa.org, Pate said. Voters can even register at the polls on Election Day, if they have ID and proof of residence.
Another measure aims to help improve participation by young people. Now, 17-year-olds can vote in primary elections or caucuses, if they will be 18 in time for the general election, Pate said.
“It only seems fair if you’re going to be voting in the final election, you should be able to vote in the primary,” he said.
Otherwise, you have no influence on who will appear on the ballot in the general election, Pate said. The change has motivated many 17-year-olds to register.
“Over 2,500 17-year-olds registered in September, and they’re still coming,” he said.
However, voters do have to comply with the state’s new voter ID laws. Those who vote at the polls on Election Day must show an approved form of identification. Acceptable forms of ID include the following:
• Current Iowa driver’s license or state-issued non-operator ID
• Current U.S. passport
• Current U.S. Military ID
• U.S. veteran’s ID
• Tribal ID/document
• Voter ID PIN card (free)
If voting on Election Day isn’t convenient, participants can vote by absentee ballot or vote early at the courthouse. Voters must provide either their driver’s license or non-operator’s ID number or their four-digit voter PIN when requesting an absentee ballot or when voting early at the courthouse.
Absentee voting has become very popular, Pate said. Up to 35% of Iowa voters use absentee ballots, in some elections.
If voters find themselves at their poll without the necessary ID, they can have a registered voter attest to their identity by signing a document or cast a provisional ballot. In order for a provisional ballot to be counted, the voter must go to the auditor’s office in the days following the election and show an acceptable ID, Pate said.
“They’ll have time to come back (to their county auditor’s office) before they canvass,” he said.