This story was written by Jennifer Delgado, The Daily Iowan
The number of early ballots requested in Johnson County has already outpaced the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections - and 12 days remain until Nov. 4.
As of Tuesday, voters had cast 15,438 more votes than they did by the same day eight years ago, when 8,080 were cast. This year's figure is outstripping that of 2004 by 3,711.
And even more are on the way, adding to the 23,518 early ballot requests, election officials said.
"Everyone's predicting a record turnout," said Linda Langenberg, Iowa deputy secretary of State, noting there's usually an even greater spike in early voting in the 10 days before an election.
New early voting features could be one reason for the high early turnout.
For the first time, auditors can open the returned carrier envelope and make sure the affidavit envelope is sealed, signed, and addressed properly.
If necessary, auditors can then call the voters and have them fix any errors. In previous years, auditors weren't allowed to check these envelopes, and if problems occurred, the votes couldn't be counted.
"It was just clear that a lot of problems occurred from people not following instructions," Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett said. "It could be cured if we opened the cover envelope."
Johnson County is the first county in the state that allows voters to check the auditor's website to see if they're registered. On the website, an individual voter can also see if the office received the vote and any possible errors.
"We want voters in Johnson County to be assured if they vote early, everything is OK with their ballot," Slockett said.
Already, more than 14,000 Democrats in Johnson County and slightly fewer than 3,300 Republicans have cast their votes. More than 10,000 have voted in person through satellite voting, and roughly 13,000 have requested ballots by mail.
People between 18 and 24 have voted early more than any other age group.
Election officials said they expect long lines on Nov. 4, so they stress early voting to sidestep them.
"It's important that you don't procrastinate and wait," said Tom Wilkey, the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, in a teleconference Monday. "Things may happen, and you may not be able to do it on the day of."
University of Iowa student Alyse Bretthauer said requesting an absentee ballot was easy and convenient. The Ute, Iowa, native said she believes "more younger people are voting because they feel their opinions matter now more than ever."
Every year, the number of people voting by satellite increases, gaining ground on the number of people voting by mail. It's because of the convenience of satellite voting, Langenberg said.
Iowa City resident Mike Smith, 27, said being able to pop into an early polling place was easy. Not only did he vote, he dropped off a library book at the same time at the Iowa City Public Library.
"I honestly didn't know what the line would be like [on Nov. 4], so I decided to come and vote today," he said.