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Armstrong satellite voting petition rejected

Only three signatures on petition were from east Emmet County town

September 18, 2012
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

A petition by the Romney campaign to allow a satellite voting site in Armstrong has been rejected since the petition was defective, the county auditor told the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Auditor Mikki Erickson she had asked John Freland who brought the petition in Monday if the location of the proposed voting had been filled out on the petition and he told her that it had not. Erickson said she then called the Iowa secretary of state's office which suggested she speak with the county attorney and then speak with the board of supervisors.

Erickson said Emmet County Attorney Doug Hansen deemed the petition as defective since it did not specify the polling location before people signed it.

Erickson said she was personally present when a person was told the petition was for Armstrong; however, only three of 155 signatures were from Armstrong residents. She said that people were told possible satellite voting stations included Hy-Vee, Don Jose and Estherville Drug, all in Estherville, as well as in Armstrong. When she asked people involved in the petition drive where the polling would be held, "I didn't get a lot of positive feedback."

Erickson said people were also told there would be no cost for the election and that the auditor's office would not be involved, neither of which was the case.

Erickson said she told Freland Monday the petition was being rejected. The deadline for presenting the petition to the Emmet County Auditor is 5 p.m. Thursday.

After Tuesday's meeting, Erickson said she had tentatively set a time and date of 2-8 p.m. Oct. 17 for the special election, before the petitions were determined to be invalid. While the petitioner is required to specify a location, the county auditor may choose the date and time.

Hansen said because the location was not specified on the petitions he deemed them defective. He cited Iowa Code 53.11.1.a: "Satellite absentee voting stations may be established throughout the cities and county at the direction of the commissioner and shall be established upon receipt of a petition signed by not less than one hundred eligible electors requesting that a satellite absentee voting station be established at a location to be described on the petition."

"The petition itself was blank at the time folks signed it," Hansen said.

"I don't think the citizens of Emmet County are being served fairly because of what's happened," Erickson said of the petition.

Noting that 98 percent of the signatures were of Estherville residents, Hansen said those signers didn't know they were signing to have a voting location in Armstrong, where Erickson said only Armstrong residents would be allowed to vote.

Erickson said the location had not been determined until last Thursday, Sept. 6 - a fact that Armstrong City Clerk Connie Thackery verified when called Tuesday. And Erickson said the last signature on the petition was Sept. 3 - three days before the location of where the polling would take place had been determined. "The location and the address was not on the petition when people signed it," Erickson said. And Erickson said Freland had told both her and Hansen the location was left blank when the petitions were circulated.

Supervisor Ron Smith said as auditor, Erickson could set up a satellite voting station on her own. "Why don't we try one place in Estherville," he suggested.

Board chair Bev Juhl said it would not be a bad thing for Erickson to set up a satellite voting station on her own and supervisor Tim Schumacher agreed.

Erickson noted that absentee voting starts Sept. 20 and that certified election officials are sent to nursing homes.



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