History made locally in 2020 general election

Nick Johansen

The Red Oak Express

The 2020 General Election is officially in the history books for Montgomery County.

At the regular meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Nov. 10, the supervisors approved a canvass of the election results.

Additionally, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office ordered a post-election audit of the election, and by random selection, Precinct Four, the Elliott Community Building, was selected and audited. Now that it’s over, Montgomery County Auditor Stephanie Burke said one thing is clear, the 2020 election was one for the history books.

“In the 2016 election, there were 1,773 absentee ballots. The numbers dipped in 2018, to 1,458 absentees. But the record was set this year, and the numbers doubled from two years ago. We had 2,923 absentee ballots cast in this election,” Burke advised.

The records weren’t limited to absentee voting. Burke said they also had a heavy turn-out of in-person voters.

“The Gold Fair Building was by far the busiest precinct. However, we combined precinct one and two, which was the Red Oak Fire Station and Gold Fair Building. The combined precinct had 805 ballots cast. Precinct Three, the First Christian Church, drew 418 voters, Precinct Four, Elliott and Grant, had 400 voters. Precinct Six in Stanton saw 340 voters, and Precinct Seven in Villisca had 467 in-person voters. Most of the poll workers went without lunch or supper, they were so busy.”

Additionally, Burke said there were also big numbers of voters who joined the election rolls Nov. 3.

“There were over 100 voters who did election day registration in Montgomery County for the General Election, meaning they registered to vote and voted on the same day,” Burke explained.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic issues still exist and appear to be worse than at the time of the Primary Election, Burke said she felt that was a big factor in why absentee voting increased.

“COVID, coupled with multiple absentee request forms that were in their mail boxes, including an absentee request form from the Iowa Secretary State that was mailed to every registered voter in Iowa, contributed to the increase. These absentee request forms were not mailed by Montgomery County. When I looked at the absentee numbers, I didn’t think the polling places were going to be that busy. I was proven wrong,” said Burke. “As the election was approaching, there were several voters that required curb-side voting assistance from the auditor’s office that were quarantined or had the virus. The auditor’s office and poll workers put their health at risk and we still gave them the opportunity to vote curbside and in their car safely. There were a couple of voters that were hospitalized and we got their votes. On Election Day, the poll workers also had to assist voters. The voters were very appreciative they still had the opportunity to vote under the circumstances.”

With the additional safety regulations, and reduced polling locations, Burke said there were a number of issues that they had to coordinate, including the addition of new poll workers.

“We combined polling places in an effort to reduce exposure to our poll workers. Many of our loyal poll workers are vulnerable to the virus, and we need to protect them. Some “seasoned” poll workers declined to work this election and the Primary. We hired some new poll workers, and we only had a week of training. I hope they continue to work. Once you are on our poll worker list, you will never get removed,” commented Burke. “Even with a plan, we still had a couple of poll workers back out at the last minute. We did the best we could with what we had. We took precautions like social distancing. The poll workers followed guidelines like sanitizing voting booths, using PPE supplies and giving voters new pens and disposable secrecy sleeves. Plexi-glass shields were provided and used between the voter and poll worker. The auditor’s office hired a professional cleaning service the next day to clean all the precincts.”

Burke said she expressed her gratitude to the people of Montgomery County who faced an election like none other, and made their voices heard..

“I owe a large debt of gratitude to the hard-working and professional staff in my office. They will now be able to leave work on time and have lunch. My staff stepped up big time considering all the new things we had to do and adjust accordingly considering the pandemic and all of those absentee ballots I also need to express appreciation to the poll workers at the precinct and worked at the courthouse leading up to election day. They all nailed it,” Burke said. “Additionally, our County IT Director Ryan Ernst did a great job on prepping our electronic poll books, delivering and setting up equipment. Maintenance supervisor Dan Wright and Montgomery County Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Hamman did a lot of work to help us make the election go smooth. The sheriff deputies, and officer with the Red Oak Police Department, as well as other volunteers helped us tremendously by picking up our election equipment and helped us unload at the end of the night. I also need to express my appreciation to all the absentee board members that spent 11 hours counting thousands of ballots on Election Day, and to everyone that registered to vote and voted, for keeping the promise of democracy alive.

She also wanted to tip her hat to her family and friends for supporting her in so many ways during this election. And let’s be real, for their support for the entire year of 2020.

“Now that I have been re-elected for another term, I look forward to four more years serving Montgomery County as your Auditor and Commissioner of Elections. It’s been a pleasure to work with the out-going elected officials, Supervisor Bryant Amos and Sheriff Joe Sampson. With that said, I am looking forward to 2021 and saying adios to 2020,” Burke stated.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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