Clinton County is on pace to break its record for absentee voting, with more than 10,800 absentee ballots already requested by Thursday, according to Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker.
The county’s record was set in 2008 with 74 percent of registered voters casting ballots. During that election, 10,600 absentee ballots were counted. The nearly 11,000 voters that have requested ballots represent nearly one-third of the registered voters in Clinton County.
The trend is on par with the rest of the state. Chad Olsen, chief of staff to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, said Iowa is on pace for a higher percentage of early votes than in 2008, when more than one-third of the 1.54 million votes were cast early.
Absentee ballot requests this year are more than 40 percent higher than they were at this point in 2008, Olsen said.
The increase in absentee voting follows a push from candidates and their respective parties for voters to vote early.
Often candidates cite unpredictable weather or changes on voting day that would prevent a prospective voter from casting a ballot.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that candidates and political parties have put more emphasis on absentee ballots,” Van Lancker said.
Another probable cause for the increase is the competitive race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney that has the two fighting for Iowa’s six electoral votes.
In the state, Democrats lead Republicans significantly in absentee ballots.
Registered Democrats had requested 241,069 absentee ballots and returned 175,019 as of Tuesday, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Republicans had requested 167,982 and returned 118,716.More than 132,400 independent voters had requested ballots as well.
The Clinton County Auditor’s Office also employed a new tool to make voting easier by opening satellite voting locations last Saturday. Van Lancker said his office will examine the trends after the election to see if this is a service that should continue to be utilized to best serve voters.
As for what the increase in absentee ballots will mean for Clinton County, Van Lancker said he’s not sure.
“It’s really hard to speculate. I hope it means a large turnout,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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