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“We are on alert”: Election officials dispel common myths, take action on voter intimidation complaints

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- This political season, there has been a need to separate fact from fiction. In Iowa state, county and local election officials have been dealing with misinformation about voting and ballots.

One rumor they are trying to put to rest is that that your absentee ballot won't count unless the race is close. That is not true. Every vote does count.

You may have heard this one: There will be armed vigilantes at polling places threatening you to vote a certain way.

Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder said that is also false and very much so illegal.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Veeder tried to dispel some of the rumors.

"You shouldn't believe rumors that there are going to be people at the polls intimidating voters," Veeder said. "It is rumors people are spreading around or expressing fear of."

He said he has gotten emails from people who said they decided to vote by mail because they were worried about being intimidated at the polls.

Veeder said it has not happened locally, but if were to, it would not be tolerated.

"These acts are not permitted at the polls," he said. "If something like that were to appear to develop, we would involve law enforcement and prevent it."

Investigating the Intimidation

In Linn County, election officials said they have received complaints about people being told they must register as a republican. Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said he believed it is a group trying to register voters at a local grocery store.

Others complained about a group going door to door by the name "Let's Get Registered."

Election officials and complainants said the group had questionable forms and literature.

There were many typos, and officials said no one answered the listed phone numbers when they called to find out who was behind it.

Linn County officials say they have referred the complaints to the Linn County Sheriff's Office and the Iowa Secretary of State.

In an email obtained by KWWL, the Secretary of State's office said it had passed the information on to the FBI and other federal officials.

Every Vote Counts

In Black Hawk County, Veeder said his office has received 34,300 requests for absentee ballots. That smashes the counties previous record of 32,000 in 2012 for most in an election cycle.

The record-breaking number could still grow because Veeder said they are still getting hundreds of absentee ballot requests every day.

So far, 25% of the absentee ballots sent out have been sent back by voters.

But they won't be counted for several weeks. Several viewers have asked KWWL why that is the case.

"That is just Iowa law," Veeder said. "We don't even start opening ballots until just before the election."

Normally the ballots cannot be opened until the day before the election.

With the expected surge in mail-in ballots this year, Secretary of State Paul Pate is allowing officials to start processing the ballots the weekend before.

Every day since the start of early voting, Veeder said more than 200 Black Hawk County voters have come to cast their ballot. He said he expected to surge to die off after a few days like it has in years past, but it is hasn't.

For more on the basics of voting in the Hawkeye State, click here.

Planning to vote absentee? Here is what you need to know

Eastern Iowa counties that have released early voting information

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Daniel Perreault

Reporter

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