The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

September 26, 2012

Campaigns pick Iowa poll sites for favored voters



This year, Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett received a similar deluge of petitions seeking sites at the university's law school, residence halls, student union, main library and more. The influx of petitions has worried local elections officials, who say they cause last-minute logistical and budgeting headaches.

"I have long felt that the bar is too low to request satellite sites," said Slockett, recalling he was once forced to host a site on the stairwell of an academic building, the only place where voting could be set up. But attempts to change the law to make it harder to petition have failed.

In Black Hawk County, Democrats petitioned to open six sites on the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls and one site at a black church in Waterloo. Republicans petitioned for voting at the American Martyrs Retreat House, which is operated by the Catholic Church, in rural Union township. The number of petitions is up significantly from four years ago, county elections manager Kyle Jensson said.

"We'll be scurrying to so many places," Jensson said.

In Denison, a city of 8,300 in western Iowa that is more than 40 percent Latino, the Obama campaign petitioned to require voting at La Jalisciense Tienda grocery store and in an empty former Mexican restaurant. Crawford County Auditor Terri Martens said she worried that non-Latinos who do not shop or eat at those locations wouldn't feel comfortable voting there.

"It seems like the purpose that this group is using it for is to yank one sector of the public out of the voting crowd and make it ultra-convenient for them," Martens said. "My job is to make it convenient for all voters. I'm having a difficult time with this."

Martens said she was also frustrated with the tactics the Obama operatives used to secure voting at locations they wanted.

"It was, 'If you do this and you guarantee us these days, we won't file any more petitions,'" she recalled. "I was like, 'Come on.' It was disappointing as a registered Democrat myself."

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