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Iowans have reached out to The Iowa Standard over and over the past month or so asking questions about what is legal and what isn’t legal when it comes to absentee voting.

Many of their questions have been due to legitimate concerns.


The Iowa Standard contacted the Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate last week to ask a few of those questions.

Absentee ballots can be given to someone else and then returned. So, if I receive an absentee ballot, I’m allowed to give it to someone else and have them turn it in for me.

I asked if I go to vote at a polling place on election day, could I fill out my ballot and then give it to someone else to put in the machine.

The Secretary of State’s office said voters can have someone assist them at the polls. If it’s an issue with a disability, then it is believed to be allowed.

My next question was: When I go to vote at a polling place on election day, can a member of the local county Democrat or Republican Party talk with me after I’ve received my ballot and before I turn my ballot in?

The answer: No.

I then asked if a political party is allowed to provide free food at a polling place.

The answer: No.

So what prompted these questions? Real-life examples.

The Polk County Democrats, for example, conducted absentee ballot collection drives in certain locations. They provided free food at some of them. Clearly, members of the local county party talked with voters after they received their ballot but before the ballot was turned in.

I have plenty of concerns when it comes to absentee ballots. Plenty. Most of which are not even addressed in this article.

If a political party cannot provide free food at a polling place, why are they allowed to provide it at an absentee ballot collection spot where oversight is going to be considerably less than what it is at a polling place?

Absentee voting should be reserved from people who truly cannot get to the polls on election day.

I know, I know — we’re in the midst of a pandemic. People might die if they show up to vote in person.

It’s 2020. Surely there is some way we could make in-person voting just more safe and more convenient.

Would anyone know if laws were broken during an absentee ballot collection effort by Democrats — or for that matter, Republicans?

I don’t think so.

If that’s the case, how can we know that this is a fair, honest and open election?

We can’t.

And that is too bad.

The Iowa legislature should take a long, hard look at the practice of absentee voting in the Hawkeye State during the 2021 session.

I think they’ll find plenty of room for improvement to the law.

Author: Jacob Hall


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