Conflict escalates over absentee request mailings in Linn, Johnson counties

Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate appears to be on a collision course with election administrators in Iowa’s second- and fourth-largest counties, which both lean Democratic.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert have proceeded with mailing absentee ballot request forms to every active registered voter in their jurisdictions, with voters’ information filled in. Miller’s office has nearly completed is mailing, and thousands of Linn County voters have already returned their forms. Weipert’s staff mailed the first batch of pre-filled absentee ballot request forms to Johnson County residents on July 27.

The same day, Pate’s staff attorney wrote to Miller and Weipert, asking dozens of questions about the mailings and demanding a broad array of relevant documents. Those letters sounded like the precursor to legal action.

Also on July 27, the lead attorney for the Republican National Committee asked Pate to take emergency action to block the Linn and Johnson County mailings and declare the forms invalid. His letter indicated that the national party may sue to stop Miller and Weipert from giving voters in their counties a supposedly “unconstitutional advantage in the November election.”

Continue Reading...

Linn County auditor proceeds with mailing that Republicans tried to stop

Some 63,245 absentee ballot request forms are en route to Linn County residents, with voters’ names, birth dates, addresses, and personal identification numbers filled in. Joel Miller, the top elections official in Iowa’s second-largest county, supervised the delivery of envelopes containing the forms to the U.S. Postal Service Bulk Mail Center in Cedar Rapids on the afternoon of July 20, he told Bleeding Heartland.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Republican lawmakers moved on July 17 to block Democratic county auditors from sending pre-filled absentee ballot request forms. However, Miller said his research indicated neither Pate nor state lawmakers had the legal authority to stop his mailing. The Secretary of State’s office did not file for an injunction or serve notice of any impending lawsuit.

Postage for the first installment of Linn County’s mailing will cost $24,412.57, according to Miller. But pre-filling the forms will save his office a significant amount of staff time, as fewer forms will come back incomplete or with the wrong voter PIN.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Republicans ready to back statewide absentee mailing—with a catch

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate kept quiet for weeks.

He said nothing in public as Republican lawmakers sought to stop him from taking steps that contributed to record-breaking turnout in Iowa’s primary election.

He said nothing when legislators agreed to allow him to exercise emergency powers over an election only with approval from the GOP-dominated Legislative Council.

He had no public comment when Governor Kim Reynolds signed that bill.

Nor did he react when Republicans on the Legislative Council voted down a Democratic motion to let the secretary of state send absentee ballot request forms to all registered Iowa voters before the November election.

Pate’s staff did not respond to journalists’ inquiries about whether he would attempt to send a universal absentee request mailing this fall.

The secretary of state finally broke his silence on July 16 with a written proposal to mail every active registered Iowa voter an absentee ballot request form. But that’s not all. Pate’s also seeking to stop county auditors from making it easier for their constituents to return complete and accurate requests for absentee ballots.

Republicans on the Legislative Council will surely approve Pate’s request when they meet on July 17. But it’s not clear the secretary of state has the legal authority to limit what county auditors send voters.

Continue Reading...

Linn County auditor dares Iowa SOS to stop planned absentee ballot mailing

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller has notified the Iowa Secretary of State’s office that he plans to begin mailing absentee ballot request forms to all active registered voters in his jurisdiction on July 20. Contrary to guidance from the state’s elections director, forms will have voters’ names, birth dates, addresses, and personal identification numbers filled in.

Continue Reading...

Iowa elections director misstates law in warning to county auditors

A showdown is brewing between the Iowa Secretary of State’s office and county auditors planning to make it easier for voters to submit accurate and complete absentee ballot request forms for the 2020 general election.

A top deputy to Secretary of State Paul Pate warned county auditors this week not to mail absentee ballot request forms with the voter personal identification number (PIN) field filled in.

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...
View More...