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Fair and accurate election

Polk County Board of Election Director speaks on record turnout

COLUMBUS—This election was one for the books. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Polk County Board of Elections Director Cliff Marr on what he said was an eventful year for elections. 

Marr said there were definitely challenges this year. He said the board of elections if made up of 5 people, which was a change from the regular 3 members. The board had to change voting systems to paper ballots and had the COVID-19 challenges. 

Marr said the public perception was of distrust of the system and they had many calls coming in with people accusing them of being cheats and liars. 

This year was a record turnout at 75.88 percent. The county had a record of 2,593 mail-in ballots, which the previous mail-in record was 874 ballots mailed in. This year’s election day was a bit more modest, Marr told commissioners, but it was an extraordinary election from a number of standpoints. 

Marr said the county had about a 50 percent turnover in poll workers this year, which was challenging, and the absentee mail in numbers caught them by surprise. 

“There’s an entire process when someone turns it in in person,” Marr said. 

He also said there were law changes from the state. Then a hurricane hit and knocked out power during early voting. He said 138 people voted the day they had no power. He spoke of him trying to get to work that day and as he was on his 6th of 6 routes to get to the county, his staff was already there and had already prepared for the day. The county has a generator and had it running to complete the day with no power. 

Marr said the county shows where every vote was cast in the county and where it came from. 

“Obviously there a lot of effort that goes into that to make sure it’s fair and accurate,” Marr said. 

He read comments the county board of elections received thanking them for their well and organized early voting. 

But Marr said they were not perfect. He said the county office has 3 people and they come in during election time and work 150 hours. He thanked his staff and temporary workers for hard work and time to give Polk residents a fair and accurate election. 

Marr told commissioners the number one complaint was that they did not provide “I voted” stickers. 

“We have heard you,”Marr said. “We will provide ‘I voted’ stickers.” 

The votes were made official last Friday but there is still work to do, Marr said. 

There is a recount in at least 2 races in the state. Marr said the board will also do a debrief to learn what went wrong. 

“This has been a very challenging time,” he said. 

There are also grants available to recover as much as possible financially. The postal budget was over because of mail-in ballots, for example . 

Commissioner Paul Beiler said Marr keeps speaking of his team, but it takes a leader. He said he is proud of Marr and his team as they did a tremendous job this year. 

Commissioner vice chair Tommy Melton said he is glad Marr works for Polk County. 

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he heard nothing but compliments during this election. He said it is essential we have well-run elections.