Letter to the Editor

Ballot request forms

Thursday, July 16, 2020

I applaud Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate for sending out mail in ballot request forms (not the ballots themselves) to registered voters for the June primary. He obviously cares about your vote and your health. This resulted in record voting (Kudos to those that voted!) which the Iowa Legislature immediately set about finding ways to quash for the general election instead of looking for ways to support and encourage voting by passing any law needed to do so. I contacted my representatives, you should too. In this unprecedented time, asking people to risk their health to vote in person is unconscionable. False arguments of massive fraud are just that as proven over and over again, twice by investigations commissioned by Republican presidents, that I know of. A June 4 NPR article found a 0.00006% fraud rate. Considering the options below, it is a no brainer to have the request forms sent out again.

Option 1: More expense. Unnecessary delays. Appearance of voter suppression.

1. Send out letters to all registered voters explaining how to request a mail in ballot. Same cost and effort as just sending out the form.

2. The absentee ballot request form must first be obtained/requested.

3. People can’t go to the court house to obtain a form because courthouses are closed to the public due to COVID-19 and/or many don’t feel safe going to places unnecessarily.

4. Most people do not have home printers to print the form at home. Libraries can’t be used if they are closed and there’s a charge to print out the form. It may be small but there should be no cost involved in any part of the process to vote safely. Voting costs are poll taxes and illegal no matter how small.

5. Calling the auditor’s office to request means the staff will now have to handle large volumes of phone calls, print and mail out the forms at additional cost which also adds unnecessary delays to the process.

Option 2: Least expensive. Less delays. Appearance of support for voter rights.

1. SoS sends out the request form to all registered voters.

Please, please, please request your mail in ballot now. The county auditor urges you to cast your ballot at home to help protect yourself and the staff. Steps are:

1. Request/obtain an absentee ballot request form.

2. Return the original, signed form to your county auditor at Clay County Administration Building, 300 W. Fourth St., in Spencer.

3. Receive your ballot.

4. You can then vote safely.

5. Repeat with each and every election.

Is this process ridiculous or what? Iowa should have permanent vote by mail option as many states do successfully. It promotes voter turnout. Counting primaries, general, city, school, special elections, it’s possible to exercise your right to vote multiple times a year.

Dates below are under normal circumstances. Don’t risk losing your right to vote safely by cutting it close to the wire. In our pandemic environment and given the large primary voting turnout it’s likely the general election requests will exceed that. So consider:

—Volume may overwhelm the staff tasked with processing requests for the forms and eventually the completed forms themselves causing delays.

—There may be even fewer staff processing requests/ballots due to sickness/quarantine requirements.

—There may be fewer polling volunteers on election day due to concern about getting infected.

—Offices may be closed or have shortened hours.

—On-time mail deliveries may be challenged to meet normal timeframes due to volume and staff sickness/quarantine requirements.

—You may have to complete a second ballot request if there’s an error on the original one adding days to the process to get notified to re-request and start the process over.

July 6: Start date to request a mail in ballot.

Oct. 5: Absentee voting begins.

Oct. 20: Last day to mail in the request form assuming mail delivered in three days by Oct. 23.

Oct. 23: Request form must be received in the county auditor's office by 5 p.m. Remember the office may be closed due to COVID-19 so hand delivery would use drop boxes.

Oct. 24: Deadline to request a ballot by mail for the general election.

Oct. 26 to Nov. 2: Window for county auditor’s office to process all requests, mail ballots out, have them received by requestor, completed and mailed back.

Nov. 2: All mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by this date.

Nov. 3: Ballot must be received in the county auditor's office by the time the polls close. The office may be closed due to COVID-19 so hand delivery would use drop boxes.

Nov. 9: Absentee ballots received after the polls close on election day must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2, and received in the county auditor's office no later than noon on Monday, Nov. 9.

Voted absentee ballots cannot be hand delivered to the polling place election day. Options are:

1. Deliver your voted absentee ballot to the county auditor's office before the polls close on election day. Again remember the office may be closed due to COVID-19 so hand delivery would be made to drop boxes.

2. Surrender your voted absentee ballot at the polls and vote a regular ballot.

3. Vote a provisional ballot at the polls if you cannot surrender your voted absentee ballot. Provisional votes have additional rules requiring follow up tasks in order for the vote to be counted so should be avoided at all costs as the follow up tasks are mostly never completed resulting in the vote never being counted.

Wear a mask!

— Diane Smith, Spencer