Absentee voting highest in Jefferson County

Jefferson County distinguished itself in November’s midterm election.

Of the state’s 99 counties, Jefferson County came in No. 1 in the percentage of voters who cast their ballots absentee, 56.64 percent of the 7,150 total votes.

The next highest county was Winneshiek County with 55.79 percent of its ballots coming via absentee, followed by Dickinson County with 50.03 percent.

Jefferson County Elections Clerk Abbie DeKleine said she doesn’t know why this county topped the list, considering it set up absentee voting 29 days before the election just like every other county.

“Absentee voting seems to grow every year,” she said. “And this was a record turnout for a midterm.”

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office tallied this year’s turnout to be 1,334,279, or 61.55 percent of registered voters. That percentage is the highest turnout for a midterm since 1994. About 41 percent of voters cast their ballots absentee.

The county that turned out the highest percentage of its voters was Ringgold County, a rural county containing the town of Mt. Ayr along the Missouri border in the southwest part of the state. Just over 71 percent of Ringgold County voters went to the polls. The next highest were: Harrison (68.57 percent), Dallas (68.13 percent) and Warren (67.88 percent).

Jefferson County had a good showing, too, with 63.31 percent of its 11,294 registered voters going to the polls. Every county in Iowa surpassed 50 percent turnout.

The closest race for a seat in the capitol went to House District 55, where Republican Michael Bergan leads Democrat Kayla Koether by nine votes. In that race, 33 absentee ballots without a postmark have not been counted. According to the Sioux City Journal, District Court Judge Scott Beattie has ordered the Winneshiek County Auditor to coordinate with the U.S. Postal Service to see if a time stamp can be deciphered from the barcodes on those ballots.

The second closest race in the county was between Democrat Phil Miller and Republican Jeff Shipley for Iowa House District 82. An initial tabulation of votes had Shipley leading by 34 votes. After Miller requested a recount in Jefferson County, 15 votes were added to the total, nine more for Shipley and six more for Miller.