DES MOINES - The election of 2012 is in Iowa record books for the number of early votes cast, thanks to all-out efforts by the main political parties and campaigns to get people to vote before Election Day.
As of Friday, 613,749 Iowans had voted by absentee ballot or in person at a satellite location or county auditor's office. The number already exceeds the 2008 record of about 545,000 early votes.
"We're extending a hand to people and we're finding people who've never voted before," said Cindy Pollard, a Newton Democrat who has helped register voters and offer them ballot applications to vote early. "I think people are seeing the importance of it."
About 70 percent of the early votes are absentee ballots sent by mail to the voter's home. Another 20 percent were cast at county auditor's offices and about 10 percent at satellite locations designated by local election officials. Despite the record early voting, the total could go significantly higher because nearly 700,000 people requested ballots. The ballots can be returned in the sealed envelope by 9 p.m. Tuesday. If they're mailed, they must be postmarked by Monday and the auditor's office must receive the mailed ballot by noon Nov. 13.
More than 20,000 ballots have been coming into election officials each day, and on Thursday alone 27,000 were returned, said Chad Olsen, chief of staff for Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. In addition, another 15,000 ballots were requested that day.