Early voting begins in the critical battleground state of Iowa

Posted at 4:25 PM, Sep 30, 2016

As early voting starts in Iowa there is a push to get people to the polls.  But Ruline Steininger didn't need any prodding. 

"I'm 103," Steininger says. "That's the reason I voted early. I'm not taking any chances."

About 100 years her junior, Evelyn Netz came to the election office as well. Not to vote, but to watch her parents, Ehtridge and Katrina Netz, cast their ballots. Both say they are convinced not even another presidential debate could change their minds.

"We've been following the election for the past year so I think we know a lot about the candidates," Katrina Netz says. Ethridge Netz adds "Living in Des Moines, you are immersed in it."

They were just two of thousands of Iowans who voted early.

But the road to Election Day in this battleground state is far from over. Donald Trump has a 5 percentage point lead over Hillary Clinton in Iowa, according to an average of general elections polls. Iowa is only worth six electoral votes, but those can mean victory or defeat in an election this close.

Kevin Hall, spokesperson for the Iowa Secretary of State says that's why both major parties are pushing to get voters registered.

"More than 9,000 Iowans have registered to vote online or updated their information just in the last week," Hall says.

His office hasn't determined how many of those voters were Democrats or Republicans, but Hall says right now Republicans have about 35,000 more voters registered in the state.

Still, the majority of voters —669,186, to be exact — have no party affiliation.  

When it comes to early voting, Hall says so far more Democrats have cast their ballots than Republicans (142,864 to 50,139) but says numbers are down from where they were four years ago.

"It will be interesting to see if they are able to catch up to that mark," Hall says. "And if they are not that could have a factor, November 8th".

For those who have voted, a sense of relief.

"Peace of mind.," Luis Diabla says. "I don't have to worry no more."

And a push for others to do the same.

Steininger says, "More the better there is no time to waste."

The fight for votes in Iowa has been ongoing. Earlier this year The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the state's ban on voting by ex-felons unless their rights are restored by the governor, disappointing voting rights advocates.  There are 56,000 Iowans who are not eligible to vote, including one in five African-Americans.