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County ready for heavy voter turnout

The voting equipment has been tested and delivered to the polling places, the election registers have been printed for the poll workers, and the ballots are ready for marking. Jasper County election officials are ready for a heavy turnout Tuesday as voters go to the polls to declare for or against a casino. The casino referendum is the only item on the ballot, yet Jasper County Elections Deputy Tina Mulgrew said nearly 500 absentee ballots were received as of this morning, which could spell a busy day for poll workers. “That many absentee ballots, you know that indicates a heavy voter turnout,” Mulgrew said. Absentee ballots can be turned in to the auditor’s office until the end of the business day today. Residents who go to the polls Tuesday will be assured that their vote will have a paper trail, should a recount be necessary. Gov. Chet Culver signed a $5 million measure last week to create a uniform voting system throughout Iowa, providing a paper trail for every ballot. Jasper, like most counties in Iowa, has both the touch-screen machines, used mainly for voters with physical disabilities, and the optical scan machines, in which a voter marks a paper ballot then deposits it into a scanner for counting. Thanks to the new law, Jasper County will be getting 21 new Auto Mark machines, replacing the touch-screen Ivotronics. Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott said that when the counties were being required to pay for their own voting machines, many chose the less costly Ivotronics, which did not provide a paper trail. “Seventy-one county auditors chose not to buy the Auto Marks,” Parrott said. “They made the best decision they could within their budgets.” Without the new state law, those with the old Ivotronics would have to attach canisters with a paper roll in order to verify a vote. Parrott said he has been working a year and a half on getting this new law passed. “Iowa has finally decided to have every Iowan vote the same way on the same equipment,” Parrott said. “The paper ballot is always the standard. For integrity of elections, this (new law) was a major decision.” Polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday throughout Jasper County. Voters will cast their ballots at their usual voting place, with one exception. Mulgrew said residents of Newton precinct 3-2, who normally vote at the Community Reformed Church will be voting at the new Jasper County Community Center (former Aldi’s building), due to a scheduling conflict.

Studies available online The University of Northern Iowa conducted a study in 2005 regarding the socioeconomic impact of gambling on Iowans. That study, presented to the Iowa Legislature, summarized the economic impact of casino gambling within the state as $3.5 billion in 2004 with 34,364 new jobs. Other notable findings include: • Casinos contributed roughly $323.7 million in 2004 in taxes and charitable contributions. • Problem gambling was cited as a serious concern among survey respondents, with survey data pointing to significant ties between bankruptcy and gambling. Visit the state’s site at www.iowa.gov/irgc/studies.htm to see the UNI study and other state studies related to casino gambling in the State of Iowa.

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