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Confusion affects special election for the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors

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We're very concerned that people believe that they weren't afforded the opportunity to vote when indeed they have."

Pat Gill, Woodbury County Auditor.

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- The confusion among Woodbury County voters in the special election centers around absentee ballots that many voters cast months ago.

Some have forgotten they cast those votes, and have shown up to cast their votes in person.

Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill says the issue centers around moving the special election, which was originally scheduled for April 14.

According to a news release from Gill Tuesday afternoon, his office sent a notice to all active registered voters in March, to notify them of the special election, and because of the onset of the pandemic, they should request an absentee ballot.

Officials say voters responded with more than 10,000 requests, and Gill's office received more than 8,000 ballots back over several weeks.

Gill says on March 20, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate postponed the original election date and set the new date for July 7.

Gill says during a phone call before the announcement, he asked Pate not to move it because Gill says, with the date following the June 2 primary election, it would cause massive voter confusion.

Gill says that is exactly what happened. By 11 a.m. Tuesday only 184 voters cast their ballot at the polls.

"A lot of people who voted in this election, they requested an absentee ballot. They voted it and returned it to us and it was a very simple ballot because it was just one question or just one contest and they returned it and a lot of folks just haven't recalled that they did that," said Gill.

Gill says the phones were ringing off the hook, as precinct election officials were calling when a prospective voter had gone to the polls and the register reflects they have already participated. He says voters are given the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot.

But if the absentee ballot and Special Voters Precinct Board finds a ballot has already been counted for that voter, the provisional ballot will not be counted.

"We have had a lot of voters that have been irritated at the polls because they don't believe they have voted and what we have offered them is that they can vote a provisional ballot or they can come down here and we will dig out their affidavit that their ballot was returned which also contains their signature," said Gill.

KTIV reached out to Secretary Pate's office and they replied with this statement:

"I wanted to ensure every eligible voter had the opportunity to cast a ballot in this special election. As the pandemic was hitting Iowa in mid-March, we needed to make decisions to protect voters and poll workers, so three special elections, including Woodbury County’s, needed to be rescheduled. I stand by my decisions. I always encourage county auditors to educate voters about upcoming elections, especially ones with unique circumstances like this one."

Official statement of Secretary Paul Pate's office.

Tuesday's special election is to fill the seat left vacant by Jeremy Taylor, who resigned earlier this year.

On the ballot were Democrat Tim Kacena and Republican Justin Wright.

Kacena is a former state representative in the Iowa Legislature.

Wright is an alternative education teacher at North High School.

There are seven polling sites--four in Sioux City and one each in Sergeant Bluff, Moville and Oto.

Polls are open until 9 p.m.

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RJ Breen

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