County puts out plea for primary voting by mail

County shrinks polling locations for primary to just Keokuk, Fort Madison and Donnellson

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – Lee County officials are asking residents to strongly consider voting by mail for the June 2 primary election.

According to Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise, the county has reduced polling locations to just three for the primary election to help combat the spread of the coronavirus in the county.

The move had to be done at this point, because ballots had to be printed and machines had to be calibrated. Fraise said at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors that she had to make a decision this week.

“We didn’t come to this decision lightly. We’ve been thinking about this quite a bit,” Fraise said. “We’re encouraging voting by mail, but we’re doing a lot of things we haven’t done before. This was not mandated by state, this was my decision.”

Fraise said Fort Madison will be voting at the former Iowa Workforce Development office at the North Lee County Office building. Keokuk will be voting at the South Lee County Courthouse, and all other precincts will be voting in Donnellson at the Community Room. Fraise said Montrose voters have also been moved to the Donnellson location.

Supervisor Gary Folluo said he’s received several calls from constituents who are afraid the move will amount to voter suppression, as well as safety of the voters, but said he supported Fraise’s move to reduce the voting locations.

“I also promoted mailing ballots in early voting. I encourage everyone to do as much of that as you can,” Folluo said. “We don’t know how long this will go on, so please request a ballot and vote from the comfort of your home.”

Supervisor Matt Pflug said he had taken calls from people concerned about a possible bottleneck of voters at South Lee County Courthouse, but he too fully supported Fraise’s decision.

Fraise said voter turnout for primary elections in the county has been low.

“Turnout is very low 11% and 9% last two years. If there was a general election, and God forbid we are doing this in November, we would have to do something different. But I’m also encouraging everyone to vote by mail,” she said.

Absentee ballots can be requested by contacting the Lee County Auditor’s office or by visiting the Iowa Secretary of State’s office at the following link: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/absenteeinfo.html

The first day of early voting has been moved back by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to 40 days instead of the regular 29 days to allow for more mailing of ballots while self-distancing orders are still in place.

Fraise said all active registered voters will be sent a notice to request an absentee ballot for early voting.

In an unrelated issue, Lee County Engineer Ben Hull told the board the county had been approved for $174,000 in traffic control upgrades for 15 intersections in the county. The money is a reimbursable grant at 100% to put in additional stop signs, rumble strips and solar-powered beacons.

Hull said the intersection at Charleston is on the list, but those sign locations are under state right of way because Hwy. 218 is part of the intersection. Hull said the state has authorized the county to upgrade the intersection, but it will be a county maintenance cost.

“Hats off to you and your crew and the work you’ve put into that. As far as financing I’m sure everyone is happy, happy, happy, about that,” Supervisor Rich Harlow said.

In other action, the board:

• voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of poll pads for voting locations. The pads will replace current laptops as the state is no longer supporting that technology.

• heard from Folluo, who sits on the county’s ambulance committee looking into a resolution for county ambulance service, that Lee County Emergency Medical Services is supposed to have a response to the county by Thursday on whether they will sign another contract for the 2020-21 budget year beginning July 1.

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