Thursday, July 03, 2008

Displaced Auditor Helps Displaced Voters

Displaced Auditor Helps Displaced Voters

Linn County voters flooded out of their homes find themselves in the same legal waters as students, with some discretion about their registration address, according to the Linn County Auditor's Office.

State law defines a voter's residence as the place to which they intend to return. College students can register at the dorm or at their parents' houses. Likewise, flooded voters may either maintain their voting address at their damaged home while it is being repaired, or re-register at their temporary address.

The key seems to be voter intent, realistic or not. "I would say that if their house was demolished or deemed uninhabitable, they should change their residential address," said Linn County deputy auditor Tim Box. In any case, he advises voters to list a current mailing address so that voter cards, absentee ballots, and other mailings can get through.

The residence address matters because it may place voters in different districts. While Iowa's congressional districts do not cross county lines, state legislative districts are smaller than urban counties. Linn County includes all or part of seven legislative districts, and is split into five county supervisor districts under a new reorganization plan that kicks in this fall.

The Linn County auditor's office itself was in the flood zone and is at a temporary site at the Westdale Mall. Box says the office lost a couple weeks of preparation for the presidential election, but is now catching up on the registration forms and absentee requests that are already flowing in from political party staffers. "We still have some files and supplies to bring over from our evacuated building," said Box. "Our computer network is not as fast or reliable here in the mall, so we are not as efficient as we were before the flood." Box says the auditor's office does not yet have access to a fax machine, and phones have been temporarily routed to cell phones.

As many as eleven of Linn County's 87 polling places were flood damaged. The county is considering using a new "voting center" provision of state law to combine polling places for the Sept. 9 school election. The new law only allows vote centers for city and school elections, and not general elections.

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