SIOUX CITY | Woodbury County residents casting absentee ballots will notice a change when filling out paperwork and returning their ballot for the Nov. 4 election.

Gone is the brown affidavit envelope, in which the ballot was placed and required the voter's signature before it was placed in the return envelope.

Instead, voters now will find a single return envelope that has the affidavit printed on the back. The change means voters will be returning only one envelope, rather than two.

"This is something the auditor's affiliate has pushed for years," said Woodbury County Auditor/Recorder Pat Gill, who also serves as the county's election commissioner.

The Legislature passed a bill approving the change earlier this year, and it will be the first election in which the new absentee process is being used. Some voters may be confused, Gill said, because the old absentee voting instructions, which include references to the affidavit envelope, are still being sent out with absentee ballots. Gill said his office chose to use up the old instruction sheets this election rather than order new ones.

It's up to each county whether to implement the change, Gill said.

Gill said Woodbury County will save about $2,000 per election because it will no longer have to buy the affidavit envelopes.

The extra envelope also caused problems in the past, Gill said, because some voters didn't return it with their ballot or didn't seal it before putting it in the return envelope. Unsealed or missing envelopes led to many ballots being disallowed, Gill said, or election workers had to contact the voter and send a new ballot.

With the change, Gill said his office should have to resend fewer absentee ballots. The change should also mean fewer ballots will be disallowed.

Early voting began in Iowa Thursday, and Gill's office also began sending absentee ballots to voters on Thursday.

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