GOP auditor will manage Scott County elections through 2022

Scott County’s newly-appointed Republican Auditor Kerri Tompkins will serve through 2022 after county Democrats failed to force a special election for the office.

Scott County Democrats leader Elesha Gayman announced on June 8 that activists collected 6,211 signatures during the previous two weeks, about 3,000 short of the threshold for calling a special election to fill a vacancy at the county level. Unusually high turnout in 2020 raised the bar for collecting signatures equaling at least 10 percent of those who cast ballots in the previous presidential election. Adding to the organizing burden, a law Republicans enacted earlier this year shortened the time frame for such petition drives to only fourteen days.

Gayman said Democrats will not “lay down” in light of what she described as “voter suppression.” The next focus for volunteers in Iowa’s third-largest county will be contacting some 10,000 voters whose registrations were recently moved to inactive status, under the same law Governor Kim Reynolds signed in March.

After her appointment by three Republican county supervisors last month, Tompkins denied she would try to make it more difficult for Scott County residents to vote.

“This is a role that I don’t set policy. That’s the legislators’ (job),” she said. “My job is to follow the law that they have set in place. That’s something you just work through, and if that’s the law, I will follow it. … I believe it can be done, and I look forward to learning (the law) and I look forward to doing the job.”

Although GOP lawmakers greatly reduced local authority to run elections, county auditors retain some discretion. For example, auditors can no longer schedule satellite locations for voting early in person, under the law that took effect in March. Voters can petition for early voting sites in the community, but a different election bill Reynolds signed on June 8 gives auditors four grounds for rejecting those petitions.

As Iowa’s only Republican auditor in a county that has recently supported Democratic candidates for president and governor, Tompkins should clarify how she intends to approach the 2022 election cycle. Will she try to accommodate citizen requests for satellite voting sites in convenient locations? Or will she look for any pretext to block efforts to set up early voting sites?

Tompkins will be on the ballot herself in 2022, as voters choose someone to serve out the last two years of former Auditor Roxanna Moritz’s term. Moritz resigned in April, only five months after running for re-election unopposed.

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