# Voting Procedures

Cautionary note for early Iowa voters

A growing proportion of Iowans have chosen to vote early during the last few election cycles. During the 2012 presidential election, 43.2 percent of Iowans who participated cast early ballots. In yesterday’s Des Moines Register, Jason Noble highlighted a problem that has and will continue to nullify the votes of some of them: missing postmarks on ballots that arrive after the general election. Post offices do not always postmark envelopes without a stamp. That’s not a problem when county auditors receive mailed absentee ballots before election day, but current Iowa rules instruct auditors to throw out ballots that arrive late, unless a postmark proves they were mailed on or before the day before the election.

Iowa lawmakers discussed several ideas for addressing the problem, but lack of consensus led them to drop the issue this year. After the jump I’ve posted an excerpt from Noble’s piece.

As things stand, Iowans who plan to vote early either in the 2014 primary or general elections can do a few things to make sure their votes count:

1. Mail in your absentee ballot well before election day, to ensure that it arrives on time.

2. Hand-deliver your absentee ballot to your county auditor’s office.

3. Place a stamp on your absentee ballot envelope, so that the post office will have to put a postmark on it.

4. Vote early in person, either at the county auditor’s office or (for the general election) at a satellite location. I prefer this option, because I know for sure that my ballot got to the right place on time. If you take this route, I recommend reviewing a sample ballot online first, so that you have time to research ballot initiatives and candidates for more obscure offices.  

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At least 12 Iowans disenfranchised in 2012 presidential election

Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s crusade to stop voter fraud in Iowa has uncovered a couple dozen allegedly ineligible voters who registered (not all of whom voted). The only person prosecuted for fraud was acquitted in less than an hour. I would bet that several people who pleaded guilty to lesser charges to avoid the risk of a trial would have been acquitted as well, since no evidence suggests they knew they weren’t entitled to vote.

Meanwhile, via John Deeth I see that Schultz has now admitted that twelve Iowans had their ballots improperly thrown out during the 2012 presidential election, because their names wrongly appeared on lists of ineligible felons. I’m surprised the number isn’t substantially higher than twelve, since we already knew that three voters in Cerro Gordo County alone were deprived of their constitutional rights. UPDATE: No one will ever know how many more Iowans did not attempt to register or cast a ballot because of confusion over their eligibility.

Schultz is creating a task force to resolve inaccuracies in the I-Voters felons file and has ordered county auditors “to work with local law enforcement, county attorneys and county clerks of court to make sure the felon status information is accurate” before special precinct boards decide whether to count provisional ballots cast by voters who appeared on the felon’s list. I’m so naive that I assumed local officials were already conducting those checks before throwing out people’s votes.

Schultz was not ashamed by a jury’s rapid-fire acquittal of a southeast Iowa woman, saying she won’t be able to “cancel out the vote of anyone in the future.” At the very least, he owes a public and abject apology to the Iowans whose votes were tossed because of a flawed procedure for screening out felons. He may also end up having to return federal funds used for his criminal investigations–or maybe his successor will be left to clean up that mess. Schultz opted to run for Congress in Iowa’s third district rather than seek a second term as secretary of state.

Matt Schultz spins voter fraud acquittal as success

Most people familiar with the criminal justice system understand that a jury acquittal after less than an hour is an embarrassing loss for the prosecutor and a sign that the case should never have come to trial.

Then there’s Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Having spent major political capital (not to mention hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars) to spin simple errors into grand criminal conspiracies, he managed to claim victory yesterday when a Lee County jury declared an ineligible voter not guilty of perjury.

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Weekend open thread: Outrages of the week

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. Here are a few links to get a conversation started.

A Polk County district court ruling related to one of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s pet projects called attention to the fact that Schultz was in Switzerland for the American Swiss Foundation’s 24th annual Young Leaders Conference, a weeklong event. Whether the secretary of state should attend a foreign junket like this at any time is debatable. But it’s ridiculous for him to have planned to be out of town when Iowa’s 99 county auditors were gathering in Des Moines to discuss election-related issues. The Iowa Democratic Party and the only declared Democratic candidate for secretary of state blasted Schultz. I’ve posted their comments below, along with the official defense from the Iowa Secretary of State’s spokesman.

Speaking of Schultz’s pet projects, here’s some important news from last month: the federal judge who wrote a key ruling upholding Indiana’s voter ID law now believes he got that case wrong.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday that it is proposing to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard on how much ethanol must be blended into gasoline. The announcement upset Iowa elected officials from both parties. After the jump I’ve posted statements from Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and all of the Iowans in Congress except for Representative Tom Latham (R, IA-03), who has not commented on this issue to my knowledge.

The Associated Press reported this week on how the push to produce corn-based ethanol has damaged the environment in Iowa and elsewhere.

One last outrage: Will Potter reported for Mother Jones about a case that “could make it harder for journalists and academics to keep tabs on government agencies.” The FBI is going to court to prevent its “most prolific” Freedom of Information Act requester from accessing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

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Voter fraud investigator produces two more arrests

The full-time voter fraud investigator hired by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz produced his second batch of arrests yesterday. In contrast to the first group of people charged (alleged non-citizens who had voted), the latest arrests involve two convicted felons who registered to vote this year but have not cast ballots.

The official affidavits don’t include any evidence that these people intended to vote unlawfully. One believed his voting rights had been restored, while the other claimed she wasn’t paying attention to what was on the voter registration form she signed. Details are after the jump.

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CORRECTED: Legislators' rules committee postpones review of voter roll rules

CORRECTION: The Administrative Rules Review Committee will consider this matter during its next meeting on September 11, due to a scheduling conflict with the Secretary of State’s Office. I enclose below a statement from Joe Royce, the staff to the Administrative Rules Review Committee.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz declined an invitation to speak yesterday at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Iowa legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee. Lawmakers had invited Schultz Sarah Reisetter of the Secretary of State’s office to discuss new voter list maintenance procedures, which were not adopted through the normal rulemaking process and have already prompted a lawsuit.

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