Satellite voting sees changes as result of new Iowa voting legislature

Johnson County voters cast early ballots in the upcoming school board and city races before upcoming Nov. 2 elections. Some noticed the impact of Iowa’s new voting laws, while others said the process remained simple and easy.


Cecilia Shearon

City Councilwoman Janice Weiner accepts a ballet from a voter during early voting polls at the Old Capitol Mall on Oct. 26, 2021. The opportunity to vote early and in person started on Oct. 13, 2021.

Natalie Dunlap and Kate Perez

Iowa voters looking to cast their ballot election ahead of time for the local and school board elections had a shorter window this election cycle, a result of new voting laws passed by the Iowa legislature earlier this year.

The new laws require voters casting their ballot at satellite polling locations before Nov. 2 and those mailing in absentee ballots to fill out voter identification information. Auditors also had to petition to have satellite voting sites. For this election there were seven satellite sites in Johnson County where voters could cast their ballot in the weeks leading up to election day.

“You now have to fill out that actual form that you see everybody write when they walk in,” Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said. “Normally, what would happen is you hand us your ID, we scan it, it tells us all your info, we print it off, we ask you to make sure it’s all correct, your address, all that. You say yes [and] sign. Well, now you have to fill it all out for us.”

According to statistics from the Johnson County Auditor’s Office, Johnson County voters had returned a total of 3,392 ballots as of Sunday night, with 153 ballots that had been requested not returned.

Of those who voted early, 805 voted by mail, 1,729 voted at the auditor’s office or at the Johnson County Health and Human Services parking ramp, and 1,003 were at satellite locations. Twenty-three early votes were from people in health care facilities or uniformed or overseas voters.

RELATED: Breaking down Iowa’s newest election laws

For some early voters at satellite locations, the new changes were an inconvenience that made the voting process longer.

Iowa City Councilor Laura Bergus voted early at the Old Capitol Mall in Iowa City on Oct. 26. Bergus said she almost always votes early because she finds it more convenient than going on election day.

Bergus said it was unfortunate that the time and locations for satellite voting are more restricted this year.

“I certainly had to be more on top of it then in the past, just as far as paying attention to what days it would be available or where it would be available,” she said.

Others noticed the changes, but it didn’t make the voting process more difficult for them.

“It was a little different to have to fill out the absentee ballot on-site, instead of just going right to the ballot,” Coralville resident Casey Baustain, who voted on Sunday at the Coralville Library, said. “Some extra steps, but they made it really easy.”

Iowa City residents Jim and Karen Larimore voted early at the Iowa City Public Library on Saturday because it fit into their schedule, considering travel and time with family.

“For this election, it’s really around the school board,” said Jim Larimore. “We both worked in education, so education is important. With the City Council, there are lots of decisions to be made about the future of Iowa City, expansion and growth and things like that.”

The Larimores said they started paying more attention to the Iowa City City Council after they heard about plans for land near their home.

“We started getting more interested in what the City Council was doing when we found out that there’s some land near as that’s being resolved, so then I started getting more interested in what they’re doing,” Karen Larimore said.

Iowa City residents Rita and Robert Schmidt voted Saturday at the Iowa City Public Library. They said an issue important to them is supporting education in the city.

RELATED: New voting rules cause absentee ballot headaches for auditors

“Strange as it sounds, I’m always willing and glad to vote to increase taxes to raise some money for the schools,” Robert Schmidt said.

It was important to them that Iowa City has what they consider a good, progressive City Council and school board, they said.

“I just hope people get out and vote,” Weipert said. “I always tell students when I go to high schools that the bulk of your property taxes go to the school board, so I get that you don’t have kids, you’re a senior in high school, but if the school board raises the levy rate, even if you’re renting an apartment, you’re gonna have to pay that those increased taxes.”