Jackson County voters outdid themselves in Tuesday’s midterm general election.
About 58.8 percent of voters — 8,710 of the 14,778 who are registered — filled in the ovals on their ballots, slid them in the scanner or mailed them back to the courthouse in time to be counted Nov. 6.
Those numbers increased by almost 7 percent from the 2014 midterm election.
Voting numbers didn’t come close to the voter turnout in the 2016 election in which more than 70 percent cast ballots. Voter turnout is traditionally higher during a presidential election year.
Absentee ballot requests increased substantially from 2014, with about 4,100 requested. That’s about a 600-ballot increase, according to county Auditor Brian Moore, who wiped his brow in jest as he laughed and noted that Tuesday was his first general election as auditor.
The largest voter turnout came from Precinct 7, which includes Maquoketa and South Fork townships. About 66.9 percent of registered voters there participated in the election. They were followed closely by Precinct 8 (Jackson and Washington townships and Springbrook) at 65.5 percent and Precinct 2 (Tete des Morts Township and St. Donatus) at 64.2 percent.
Moore votes in the small town of St. Donatus, and within the first 30 minutes of the polls opening, more than a dozen people had voted.
Precinct 12 (Maquoketa 1st Ward) registered the smallest percentage of voters at 48.2 percent.
It takes time
Moore, Alisa Smith, and Bjorn Beck reported few glitches in the voting system and no detrimental equipment problems Tuesday, when polls were open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Democratic candidates, their families, and others gathered for a watch party at The Timber Center in Maquoketa Tuesday night. As 9 p.m. rolled around and the polls closed, they logged onto the county auditor’s website to view local election results.
Results trickled onto the site sometime around 9:45.
Beck, the courthouse IT director who uploads the election results, and other staff heard some complaints about the amount of time it took for the office to post election results online.
It’s simply a matter of time, Beck said.
“The first calls from the precincts didn’t come in until 9:20,” he explained.
This year, three paid runners went to polling sites in St. Donatus, Bellevue and Sabula at 9 p.m. to drive the ballot scanners’ memory cards back to the Auditor’s Office instead of waiting for the machines to be packed up and returned to Maquoketa.
“We thought that would save some time and get the results to the public quicker,” Moore said.
But the more than 700 write-in names for hospital board and other positions slowed the process, Moore said, as did the time it takes to drive results cross-county to Maquoketa.
“It’s all about the correct figures,” said Smith, who was setting up equipment in her first precinct shortly after 5 a.m. Tuesday. “Maybe we could do it all faster, but it’s more important to get the correct numbers to the public.”
Ballot security and accuracy are vital, and the Auditor’s Office graded itself with a B+ for Tuesday’s efforts.
“There’s always room to get better,” Moore said. “But here in Jackson County, we do at least as good a job as every other county, if not better.”
Karen Manning agreed.
Manning is a volunteer poll watcher for the Jackson County Democratic Party. She was watching for extreme wait times and how well the new voter ID laws were working, and she said she saw no problems from her station inside Pearson Memorial Center.
Tuesday’s election was doubly special for Moore. Not only was it his first general election as county auditor, but more importantly, he said, his newest granddaughter entered the world just before noon. His son and daughter-in-law, Brandt and Brooke Moore, welcomed a new baby girl. Mom and baby were happy and healthy.