The Iberia Parish Registrar of Voters Office was busy Thursday afternoon.

Each worker in the office had boxes of envelopes and ballots, preparing them to be mailed so parish voters who requested absentee ballots could vote in the Nov. 3 election.

There are usually less than 1,000 ballots requested before an election, Registrar of Voters Kristie Blanchard said. That’s not the case for this year’s presidential election.

“We usually have between 900 and 1,000 requests,” Blanchard said. “This year, we have 2,500.”

Those ballots have to be prepared and sent out no later than Saturday, Blanchard said.

“For presorted mail, it has to be to the post office by Friday afternoon at 3,” she said.

Everyone in the office, Blanchard included, was pitching in to get the task done. There are 13 different ballots in Iberia Parish, depending on which precinct or municipality the voter is registered in to vote.

Aside from the heightened interest in this year’s presidential election, Blanchard said the COVID-19 outbreak also played a part in the large number of requested ballots.

“People are concerned about the virus,” Blanchard said.

Earlier this summer, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin sent letters to all voters over the age of 65 notifying them that they could have ballots sent to them.

“Those people voting by mail don’t have to worry,” Blanchard said. “Once we send out the ballots, they have 45 days to get them back to us. All they have to do is open the envelope, read the ballot, vote and put it in the envelope and stamp it. Then, if they are concerned about their vote being counted, they can call us and check to make sure it was received.”

There is also an affidavit, included with the ballot, that voters must complete and have witnessed, verifying that they completed the ballot and that it is, in fact, their vote.

Blanchard also said that even those who receive mail-in ballots don’t necessarily have to vote by mail.

“They can drop them off here at the office,” she said. “Some voters, military and absentee, can vote by fax. All they have to do is check the disclosure box and they can fax it in.”

She also noted that, due to the ongoing coronavirus concerns, the early voting period for the election has been extended, starting on Oct. 16 instead of Oct. 20.

“There’ll be 10 days of early voting,” Blanchard said. “We’ll also be open later, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.”

Early voting will be open every day except Sundays.

The registrar is also participating in Voter Registration Education Week from Sept. 21 to Sept. 26. Due to the pandemic, the effort this year will focus on public service announcements through broadcast media and social media efforts online. So far, Blanchard said she has seen an increase in some voters coming in to register.

“The numbers are increasing,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of people who had not voted before. We’re seeing younger people come in to register.”

Blanchard said that voters who want to verify their registration and make sure they are qualified to vote on Nov. 3 have until Oct. 5 to check their status, either online at www.geauxvote.com or at the Registrar of Voters Office on the first floor of the Iberia Parish Courthouse. Iberia Parish voters can also call the registrar’s office at 369-4407 for assistance or to verify that their mail-in ballot has been received.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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