Photo credit: Tony Fischer
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DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa’s Legislative Council’s 24 member panel unanimously approved Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s plan to send absentee ballot requests to the state’s registered voters.

In March, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office sent an absentee ballot request form to every registered voter for the June 2 primary in response to COVID-19. As a result of the absentee ballot push, Iowa broke a voter participation record for a June primary with 529,586 ballots cast, and almost 78 percent of those ballots being absentee.

In June, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill sponsored by State Senator Roby Smith, R-Davenport, requiring Pate to have Legislative Council approval to use his emergency powers to alter election procedures, such as sending absentee voting ballot requests to every registered voter and extending the absentee voting period. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed that bill into law.

Pate said he intended to send absentee ballots out again. 

“I want Iowa voters and poll workers to be safe during this pandemic while we conduct a clean, fair and secure election. After consulting with all 99 county auditors, I believe the best way to accomplish that goal is by mailing an absentee ballot request form to every active registered voter in the state. Voters will still have the option of casting their ballot in person and we will provide resources to protect Iowans who choose that method. This process worked great in the June primary and I believe it will work in the general election,” Pate said in a released statement.

“I want to applaud the Secretary of State for bringing forward what I think is a good proposal. As I said on our last call, we want as many people as possible to vote. We want this election to be as accessible as possible, we need it to be predictable for campaigns, we need it to be uniform across the state so Iowans in every county are treated the same, and we need it to be as secure as possible. This proposal accomplishes all of those things,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said during his remarks. 

He said that some county auditors wanted to populate forms with confidential voter ID PINs and skirt the system that was already in place. 

“This type of disregard for the law should not stand as it lends Itself to possible fraud. With this order, it is clear any auditor who sends out a pre-populated form with the voter ID PIN is ignoring the law. Auditors and voters should be on notice that this action shows clear disregard for the law – and could easily lead to election fraud,” Whitver added.

He said under Pate’s plan the absentee ballot request forms will be secure, sending out blank forms in compliance with Iowa’s voter ID law. 

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