Iowa sets new primary election turnout record after mail-in ballots surge
Iowa set a new primary election turnout record Tuesday, as absentee voting surged in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have surpassed the all-time turnout record for a June primary, with more than 487,000 ballots cast & more still coming in," Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate tweeted Tuesday night. "The previous high in Iowa was 449,490 in 1994. My hats off to Iowa voters, poll workers and county auditors. Awesome job!"
By Wednesday morning, the secretary of state's website, listed a 24% turnout, with 522,207 cast.
According to the secretary of state's website, more than 411,000 people voted absentee this year — a number that dramatically outpaces the 38,000 absentee votes cast in the 2016 primary election.
This year's absentee voters included 232,438 registered Democrats and 177,843 registered Republicans.
Early voting by mail spiked after Pate, a Republican, decided to mail absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter and extend the early voting period for mailed ballots from 29 days to 40 days.
The goal, he said, was to ensure Iowans don't have to stand in lines at their polling locations and risk exposure to the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, Iowa had tallied more than 20,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 500 deaths.
"The safety of voters while casting their ballots is our top priority," he said in a news release announcing the decision. "The June 2 primary election will go on as scheduled, because it’s important for Iowans to make their voices heard by voting. The safest way to vote will be by mail."
Many of those who voted in person on Election Day did so armed with extra precautions such as face masks and hand sanitizer.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.
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