Our Republican Iowa state legislature just couldn’t let it go. After the Senate’s extreme voter suppression bill was resoundingly rejected by the House, the senate had to slip into the budget bill in the middle of the last night of the session some unnecessary absentee ballot request regulations.
If a voter provides incomplete or incorrect information when requesting a mailed absentee ballot, the county auditor’s office will be required to contact the voter first by telephone, then by email, then by physical mail, rather than using an existing voter
registration database to fill in the blanks.
The law currently allows for the use of the existing voter registration database for correcting simple errors or incomplete information,
such as when a voter who has no Iowa Driver’s License or Non-Operator I.D. number uses the last four digits of their Social Security Number rather than the required voter I.D. number. This new “budget” bill prevents that from happening. Should you make a mistake, your already overworked county auditor will need to attempt several time-consuming ways of contacting you to verify that the address and all other completed parts of the application are indeed valid and that you are who you say you are. This type of verification may be necessary when the county auditor has real concerns about the validity of the request, but this is not the case for minor
errors or omissions.
One can easily download and complete an absentee ballot request from the State of Iowa Secretary of State website, but heaven forbid you make a simple error that the county auditor could easily remedy by looking at the official voter registration database. This additional layer of regulation is just what we voters and taxpayers do not want nor need.
Our recent primary was an unqualified success for voter turnout of Republicans, Democrats, retired citizens, working citizens, those with compromised health for whom it is difficult to leave the house safely, busy young parents who are overwhelmed with child care and work because absentee ballots were so easily obtained. None of us had to add to our list of to-dos to request an absentee ballot. What our Republican Secretary of State did with the support of all 99 county auditors (66 of whom are Republicans), was to send the absentee ballot request form to every single registered voter. With Covid-19, the safety of our citizens required this special emergency measure. What a model of good citizenship this was! Aren’t we as good citizens supposed to vote?
This new “budget” provision feels like a slap on the wrist to our state and county auditors for taking their jobs of overseeing elections seriously. A rose to them for making it easier for citizens to exercise their right and duty to vote. A thistle to our State Legislature.