By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa - Presidential candidate John Kerry was a double winner Thursday when two Iowans — both young Democratic Party activists — cast the state's first votes of the 2004 election.
Andy and Jana Heiting-Doane, both 22, were at the doors of the Polk County election office when it opened at 8 a.m. They filled out two absentee ballots, later telling reporters they had voted for Kerry, as part of an event carefully choreographed by the Iowa Democratic Party.
Under Iowa law, the state's 99 county auditors were required to make absentee ballots available Thursday. Requests for absentee ballots have been flowing in all summer. By Monday, Polk County election officials had received 32,600 requests for absentee ballots, most coming from Democrats. In Linn County — the second largest — there were 17,000 absentee requests.
Those totals are near the absentee vote in the 2000 election, with more than a month left before the election.
Thirty-two states allow for some form of early voting. Both the GOP and the Democratic Party have urged prospective voters to cast ballots early rather than wait until Nov. 2, not wanting any supporters to miss out because of unforeseen circumstances or Election Day lethargy.
In Iowa in 2000, early voting paid off for Democratic candidate Al Gore. While Republican candidate George W. Bush received more votes on the day of the election, Gore earned more in early voting and won Iowa by just over 4,000 votes.