All active registered voters in Iowa, totalling about 2 million, will start receiving absentee ballot applications this weekend, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office announced on Friday.
The sending of the forms ahead of the November general election is part of efforts to encourage social distancing at polling places amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, the office said in a news release.
“Iowans have options about how they choose to cast their vote,” Pate said in a statement. “You can vote from home, you can vote in-person at your county auditor’s office, or at the polls on Election Day. The key is we want every eligible Iowan to participate and to be safe while voting.”
The announcement said that county auditors will begin mailing ballots on Oct. 5. Ballot request forms must be received no later than Oct. 24 at 5 p.m.
On Twitter, Pate said that Iowans can track their absentee requests and absentee ballots online. “The system posts updates after the county auditor has received your request, mailed your ballot and when you return your ballot,” he wrote.
Pate had sent out absentee ballot request forms across the state ahead of the June 2 Republican primary, which resulted in a record-high voter participation of more than 530,000 Iowans, his office noted.
2 Counties Singled Out
The office said that voters may have received absentee request forms from other parties such as from county auditors, political parties, and other groups, but that they only need to send in one form—unless they are from Linn and Woodbury counties.
“Judicial rulings have invalidated forms that were pre-filled by those auditors [in Linn and Woodbury counties],” Pate’s office announced.
Pate specifically said that voters in Linn and Woodbury counties should fill out and return the form his office is sending them, and disregard “a pre-filled absentee request form” they had received previously.
“Unfortunately, we had a few county auditors who made reckless decisions that have confused voters and possibly disenfranchised them. This mailing from my office will help ensure those Iowans receive ballots and are able to vote,” he said.
In late August, an Iowa judge ordered Linn County Auditor Joel Miller to invalidate 50,000 absentee ballot requests, agreeing with a Trump campaign argument that a local elections commissioner broke the law by pre-filling the applications with voters’ personal information.
Miller in July had sent some 140,000 absentee ballot request forms to voters in; all the forms had pre-filled personal information of the voters. Of these forms, about 50,000 were returned signed.
Miller’s move was ruled by the judge as in violation of an order from Pate who had said that same month that all absentee ballot request forms have to be blank when mailed to voters to ensure uniformity.
A hearing on a similar mailing sent by the Johnson County auditor is scheduled for Sept. 9.
Iowa is one of 16 swing states in the 2020 election, according to a tally maintained by Real Clear Politics.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.