Iowa secretary of state backpedals on ballot drop box crackdown

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate will not seek to prevent county auditors from setting up drop boxes outside their offices for voters to hand-deliver absentee ballots, he announced on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program on August 28.

The same day, state elections director Heidi Burhans told county auditors in writing that “a no-contact delivery system” for absentee ballots will be allowed “at your office or in the immediate outside area of your office building.”

Pate still maintains county auditors cannot set up drop boxes “throughout the community,” a warning shot at Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

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Iowa Republicans may regret blocking statewide absentee ballot mailing

July 6 was the first day Iowans can request an absentee ballot for the 2020 general election. Under normal circumstances, I prefer voting early in person and have encouraged others to do the same. But voting by mail is by far the safest option for 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican legislators signaled last week they won’t allow Secretary of State Paul Pate to send absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter again.

Election officials in Iowa’s largest counties aren’t waiting to see how things play out. Several auditors are already making plans for their own universal mailings. Higher turnout in those counties should benefit Democratic candidates for federal offices and state legislative seats.

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Iowa SOS will need permission for future emergency election changes

Secretary of State Paul Pate will need approval from the Legislative Council in order to use his emergency powers to alter election procedures, under a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed on June 25.

While Republicans have a majority on that legislative body, it’s not clear they would use that power to prevent Pate from repeating steps that led to record-breaking turnout for the June 2 primary.

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Court puts four new Iowa voting restrictions on hold (updated)

A Polk County District Court has ordered that four voting restrictions Iowa Republicans enacted in 2017 will be on hold pending resolution of a lawsuit the League of United Latin American Citizens and Iowa State University student Taylor Blair filed in May. Plaintiffs had requested the temporary injunction, noting that the new law (House File 516) could disenfranchise eligible voters in various ways and would disproportionately harm Democrats, who are more likely to cast early ballots.

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