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The Secretary of State (SOS) is mailing absentee ballot request forms to all registered Iowa voters. If you haven’t already received yours, you should soon. Secretary State Pate estimates as high as 80% of Iowa voters will vote by absentee ballot.

Some quick things to know:

  1. This is a ballot REQUEST form… it is not the ballot that you will use to cast your vote. In order to have your actual ballot mailed to you, you must first complete the form and return it to the County Auditor’s office.
  2. You only need to complete one request form. (If you’re like me, you’ve received multiple request forms)
  3. If you’ve requested to vote by absentee, ballots will be sent out by County Auditors on October 5th.
  4. If you don’t want to vote by absentee, you don’t have to. Polling places will be open normal hours (7 am-9 pm) on Election Day Tuesday Nov. 3rd, and extra precautions are being taken to keep voters and poll workers safe due to the pandemic. And also, you can vote early in-person at your county courthouse or satellite location.
  5. Q & A: What’s the difference between sending in an absentee ballot request form, getting your ballot from the auditor’s office, marking it, and mailing it in – like we do here in Iowa – and “mail-in voting” that we hear about? Isn’t what we do here in Iowa the same as “mail-in voting”?

No, what we do in Iowa is not considered “mail-in voting”. Mail-in voting occurs when the election office sends out a ballot to every registered voter without their asking for it. In Iowa a voter must ask for a ballot by sending in an absentee ballot request form in order to get their ballot. This helps to ensure that the person who requests the ballot is the one who casts the ballot.

The right to vote and to make one’s voice heard is one of our most sacred rights. We want to reduce the risk of fraud and make our elections secure so our votes count and we can have confidence in the results.

We should remember that while voting is a right, courts have ruled that absentee voting and/or mail-in voting is a privilege that is allowed to be regulated by the state. In Iowa we have sought to regulate it in a way that makes it “easy to vote and hard to cheat”.

Disadvantages of “Mail-In Voting”, a policy being pushed across the country:

  1. The chain of custody is lost for vote-by-mail ballots. With in-person voting only the election officials and the voter handle the ballot. With vote-by-mail ballots which are sent out unsolicited, there is no way to ensure that the person for whom the ballot is intended is the person who even gets the ballot, let alone casts the ballot. With the absentee system of voting in Iowa, there is a much greater likelihood that a person who is sending in a written request the ballot with their ID number on it will be the one who casts the ballot.
  2. No ID is required for vote-by-mail ballots. It would bypass Iowa’s Voter ID law. Again, there is no way to ensure that the person to whom the ballot is mailed is the one who casts the ballot.
  3. No election officials or poll watchers are observing the vote-by-mail process to guard against unlawful advertising or unsolicited “help”.
  4. Vote-by-mail encourages ballot harvesting. Ballot harvesting is gathering and submitting completed absentee or mail-in voter ballots by third-party individuals, volunteers or workers, rather than by the voters themselves directly to the post office or election office. Again, the chain of custody is broken because others besides the voter and election officials are handling the ballot.
  5. Vote-by-mail encourages voter fraud. Ballots are sent out to people who may have moved, died, or who are not citizens.
  6. Vote-by-mail erodes confidence in elections. According to a Rasmussen poll taken in April, 62% of likely voters believe vote-by-mail increases the chances of voter fraud. This indicates that vote-by-mail would undermine the public’s confidence in election results.
  7. Example of a disaster from mail-in-voting: New York’s recent primary in which officials estimate 20% of mail-in ballots will likely be thrown out
  8. This list came from an analysis by True the Vote’s Michael Bayer of Waterloo.

Iowa Lawsuits over Absentee Ballots: Three liberal county auditors (Johnson, Linn, and Woodbury) defied state law regarding absentee ballots by their offices filling out the voter information on the absentee ballot request form for the voters and then sending them out to voters. The voters did not ask for them and did not provide the information, which includes the ID number. A voter providing this information himself helps to ensure the integrity of the ballot process. This amounted to the release of personal information of 200,000 Iowans without encryption or redaction. The Iowa Secretary of State has referred these personal information security breaches to the Iowa Attorney General for investigation and prosecution.

Judges in Linn and Woodbury counties have found that these actions were clearly unlawful and are requiring thousands of absentee ballot requests to be thrown out. This could cause significant confusion for voters which could have easily been avoided if auditors followed the law. Johnson County District Court is reviewing the actions of their auditor now.

Not satisfied with these rulings, the Iowa Democrat Party filed a lawsuit to prevent the Iowa Secretary of State both from stopping the 3 auditors sending out the absentee ballot request forms already filled out and from the SOS office itself sending out absentee ballot request forms statewide.

We want to ensure that every eligible Iowan is able to vote in the manner that they prefer and with more Iowans moving towards vote by absentee, we must ensure that our absentee voting system is secure and free of fraud. That’s why common-sense measures were passed this session which strengthen the security of our election system.

Drop Boxes:  The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, settled a question over drop boxes, saying drop boxes in auditor’s offices or on county property, as long as they can be secured, are lawful to be used to collect ballots or absentee ballot request forms.

Sandy Salmon

Author: Sandy Salmon