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Jasper County Tribune

Despite state-wide push, Jasper County sees no jump in registered voters

October is a busy month for Tina Mulgrew, left, and Dennis Parrott, right, at the Jasper County auditor and elections office.
October is a busy month for Tina Mulgrew, left, and Dennis Parrott, right, at the Jasper County auditor and elections office.

The dawn of October officially closes the door on this year’s national voter registration month. On National Voter Registration Day, which has fallen on the fourth Tuesday of every September since 2012, nearly 5,000 Iowa citizens registered and/or updated their voting information, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

The day’s success in Iowa comes on the heels of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s push to increase voter registration across the state that already has one of the top rates of voter registration and participation in the U.S. Pate’s office reports that less than 10 percent of eligible Iowa voters remain unregistered.

“Paul Pate is committed to helping every Iowan participate in our elections,” Kevin Hall, communications director of the Office of the Iowa Secretary of State, said. “As part of our national voter registration month in September, we sent a postcard to approximately 300,000 Iowans who were eligible to vote but not registered.”

Pate’s office compared the state voter registration list with Iowa’s Department of Transportation (IDOT) database. Anyone listed by IDOT not on the voter rolls received a postcard reminding them to register.

Because Iowa recently joined the multi-state Election Registration Information Center (ERIC) through the PEW Charitable Trust, which Hall describes as the “cleanest, most accurate, most up-to-date” list of registered voters, the state did not spend any taxpayer money on the project.

Locally, however, Jasper County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Dennis Parrott and deputy auditor Tina Mulgrew have not noticed a significant increase in voter registration leading up to the November elections. In 2014, Jasper County reported 23,404 registered voters. That number increased slightly to a reported 24,601 registered voters in 2016. As of Oct. 1, Jasper County reports 24,586 registered voters, remaining relatively flat.

“A lot of it depends on population. Our population in Jasper County has been pretty stable. It’s bounced around somewhere between 35,000- and 36,000-some people, and it’s been that way for a number of years now,” Parrott said. “When that’s the case, we’re going to stay in that 23,000 to 24,000 registration number.”

According to Parrott and Mulgrew, online registration systems — which Jasper County residents used to prepare for the primary and a Newton city election last year — and the statewide registration push has not affected registration numbers.

“If people are interested in the election, if it’s going to affect them, if they like a particular candidate or something in Washington is going on that they’re interested in locally — they’ll get involved or they’ll register,” Parrott said. “Because there’s such a high percentage of people registered already, it’s difficult to put on a literature campaign like Paul (Pate’s) and hope that you’re going to get hundreds of thousands of new voters. I’m not going to say it’s not effective; I’m just going to say that we didn’t see a major increase in the people who wanted to vote because of his literature campaign.”

Although National Voter Registration month has ended, eligible voters can still register. Pre-registration will end at 5 p.m. Oct. 26, 10 days before election day in November. Those names will automatically be placed on the voter role. Iowa, however, has no registration cutoff date. Eligible voters can register up to the election after pre-registration ends, and their registration forms will be filed as same-day voter registrants.

“We got a lot of same-day voter registration on election day in 2016 with such a large turnout,” Mulgrew said.

If the 2016 trend continues, Jasper County’s number of registered voters could jump by a couple hundred people on election day.

Contact Phoebe Marie Brannock at 641-792-3121 ext. 6547 or pbrannock@newtondailynews.com

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