It was an expensive vote.

Last Thursday, a satellite absentee voting station was held at Luther College after a petition requesting it was filed with the Winneshiek County Auditor's office.

Luther College senior Sean Sanders, president of the Luther College Democrats, brought in the petition with more than 150 signatures; only 100 signatures were required to have a satellite station, according to Auditor Ben Steines. The majority of petitioners were Luther students.

The satellite station was open at Luther's Dahl Centennial Union from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 20. Only one person - a member of the Luther faculty - voted.

It cost approximately $550 for the voting station, which includes the cost of staffing and publicizing, and printing additional ballots, Steines said.

The idea of having satellite stations is to give everyone the opportunity to vote, Steines said. His office has been open for absentee voting since April 29 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and will remain open for absentee voting through Monday, June 7, the day before the primary election.

Last Thursday, Steines said nine people voted absentee at his office.

In a "busy" election year, auditors will voluntarily open satellite stations, Steines said. In Cedar Rapids, for example, such sites are sometimes held at Hy-Vee.

"Knowing it was going to be a light election, I wouldn't have thought (a satellite) was necessary, but I didn't have a choice (since a petition was filed)," Steines explained.

On the Democratic ballot, there is only one contested race - for U.S. Senate -- and on the Republican ballot, there are contests for governor, secretary of state and treasurer of state. (Voters must choose a political party to cast a ballot in the primary election.) Ballots wereavailable for Decorah Wards 4 and 5 only at the satellite.

Steines said he did inform Sanders that due to the timing of getting ballots printed and publicizing the absentee voting station, the satellite could not be scheduled until after May 15.

"He (Sanders) knew it (the satellite station) would be during finals week ... the students were a lot more worried about getting home than voting," Steines said.

Attempts to reach Sanders for comment were unsuccessful. Luther commencement services were Sunday.



When needed

More than one student approached the poll workers and asked them if they were there to purchase used textbooks.

Since he had anticipated a light turnout at the satellite station, Steines sent two members of his staff and hired one other person to work at it.

For the members of his staff, Steines said their time was taken away from the office and their regular workload.

The auditor said he doesn't mind providing a satellite site if it's used.

"I'm happy to provide it if it's a service people are going to utilize. I hope in the future people organizing the petition drive take into consideration the timing (of the site) as well as how many people will be voting," Steines said.