Early voting kicks off across Iowa today, including in Black Hawk County, where about 9,500 absentee ballot requests had been filed as of Wednesday.
With early voting, Iowa is the first of the battleground states to cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
To vote early, voters can request and submit absentee ballots via mail, or they can pick up and submit the ballots in person at either the Black Hawk County Courthouse or at a handful of satellite sites.
Hours for in-person voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse, 316 E. Fifth St., Waterloo, are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Early voting continues through Nov. 5. Satellite sites will be available for early voting on selected days between now and Election Day.
Early voting is growing in popularity in the state. So far this year Black Hawk County has seen a fifty percent increase in absentee ballot requests over four years ago, KCRG reported.
There is also a greater focus on satellite sites. In 2008, there was one petition for a satellite station in Black Hawk County, KWWL reported. This year there are seven petitions, six by the Democratic Party.
The Associated Press reported in Black Hawk County, Democrats petitioned to open six sites at the University of Northern Iowa and one site at an African-American church in Waterloo. Republicans petitioned for a site at the American Martyrs Retreat House in rural Union township.
As of Tuesday, registered Democrats had requested 114,585 absentee ballots in Iowa, while Republicans had requested only a fraction of that number – 22,364.
Recent polls put Romney behind in Iowa by as much as five or six points, longtime Iowa GOP fundraiser and activist Becky Beach told Real Clear Politics, but she thinks Republican gains in voter registration may help offset that.
Early voting has always been “a strong Democrat process,” she said “It doesn’t worry me that they have an advantage, as we have made some real gains in voter registration this year.”
As of Sept. 4, registered Republicans outnumbered registered Democrats, 620,868 to 602,636. Registered voters who did not declare a party outnumbered both with 666,279 voters.
While Democrats have been pushing early voting throughout the summer, the Romney campaign waited to make its push until the ballots actually became available. Real Clear Politics said the first of 10 scheduled mailings on early-voting information will hit Republicans’ mailboxes this week.