In this legislative session, House Republicans passed multiple pieces of legislation that protect the integrity of elections in Iowa. One measure included in Senate File 568 prevents what has been called “ballot harvesting.” In Iowa, voters are allowed to vote with an absentee ballot by mail. The voter requests a ballot from their county auditor and receives their ballot in the mail, fills it out, and returns it to the county auditor’s office. Under the newly enacted laws, there are several ways a voter can do this.
First, the voter can put their completed absentee ballot in the mail at the post office, any postal service mailbox, or with their mail carrier.
The second option is to return it directly to the county auditor’s office either in person at their office or anytime at the official designated ballot drop box outside the office.
The third option is someone in the same household or an immediate family member may return the completed ballot on their behalf. Additionally, voters who suffer from a physical disability can complete and sign a designation of a delivery agent who can return the completed ballot for the voter. These delivery agents complete a receipt when retrieving a ballot from the voter and when they deliver the voter’s ballot. Upon delivery these agents are required to provide their ID and relevant contact information with the auditor’s office. Delivery agents cannot return more than 2 ballots for a general election. These delivery agents cannot be the voter’s employer, an agent of their employer, an officer or agent of a union, or a person who is acting as an agent for a political party.
While these laws are straightforward and based on common sense, Democrats looking for looser ballot security have cried voter suppression and racism over these ballot harvesting safeguards. These measures are in place to ensure that the ballots cast by absentee voters are truthfully delivered and delivered by a known person. Without these provisions in Iowa Code, paid political operatives, regardless of their affiliation with candidates, can go door to door and accept absentee ballots or persuade a voter to complete a ballot for them. Registered voter lists are publicly available and without these laws, campaigns and special interest groups could even be able to target opposite parties and collect ballots and not return them.
With increases in absentee voting, other states have seen the importance of preventing potential ballot harvesting and other foul play associated with absentee ballots. Arizona enacted very similar ballot harvesting prevention laws and was quickly challenged in court by the Democratic National Committee looking to capitalize on lax ballot security laws. The DNC’s opinion is that any requirements around accountability for returning an absentee ballot are really voter suppression and racist. However, the United States Supreme Court did not agree with the Democrats. On July 1, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona’s integrity-based ballot harvesting laws. Justice Alito wrote in his majority decisions that “the strength of the state interest – such as the strong and entirely legitimate state interest in preventing election fraud – served by a challenged voting rule is an important factor.”
Listening to Iowans, House Republicans have made election integrity a top priority. Voter ID laws along with other election security measures are widely supported by Iowans. During this session, Republican members passed two comprehensive bills to ensure that integrity. Democrats fought every measure to prevent cheating while Republicans moved to secure our elections. This Supreme Court decision makes it clear that taking measures to prevent absentee ballot harvesting and tampering is well within the right of the state.