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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Around 294,000 registered voters in Iowa recently have been sent notices they are “inactive” voters, including 18,000 in Linn County and 10,616 in Johnson County, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Monday.
Across the state, 294,148 no-activity notices have been mailed to Iowans this year, according to Kevin Hall, communications director for the Iowa Secretary of State Office.
Hall said the notices will not affect anyone’s ability to vote in any election from 2021 through 2024. He said the voting experience for inactive voters will be identical to that of active voters.
“After they (inactive voters) do vote in any election in any of those years, their status returns to active,” Hall said. “They can also respond to the mailing or update their voter registration or request an absentee ballot for any election through November 2024 to make their registration status active.”
The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature passed Senate File 413 which requires a voter be marked as inactive if the individual did not vote in the “most recent general election.” Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law March 8.
On Friday, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said he sent a Notice of Technical Infraction and Letter of Instruction to Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, claiming many voters were incorrectly inactivated.
The county auditor, a Democrat who previously has said he is exploring a run for secretary of state, said he identified at least three groups of people incorrectly inactivated:
- Registered voters who were 17, but not 18 by the November 2020 election.
- Pending voters, such as someone who is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.
- Deceased individuals whose voting status already was canceled, with mailers going to family members saying the deceased person was an inactive voter.
“He’s out there promoting voter registration but then deactivates them,” Miller said of Pate.
Hall said voters who register to vote before turning 18 are considered active voters and are subject to Iowa’s voter list maintenance laws. It was not a mistake, he said, to include those who did not vote in November though the state may seek to exempt that group from inactivation in the future.
“The inclusion of voters under the age of 18 … is something we plan to address as we write administrative rules to implement recently passed legislation,” Hall said. “This affected approximately 400 registered voters in the state. They are still registered voters and able to participate in any election.”
In Iowa, individuals can register to vote at age 17. Before 2019, the age was 17-1/2.
Miller said he questions whether Pate’s office should have sent the no-activity mailers this year. He told The Gazette that new laws generally are not retroactively implemented and that the mailers should have been used in future elections.
Hall said the Secretary of State’s Office applied the law as it was written when conducting the no-activity list maintenance and that the mailings were based on data entered in the I-Voters system by county auditors.
“Every March, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office conducts voter list maintenance as required by federal and state law,” Hall said.
Hall said the state’s database vendor, Arikkan, did change 492 individuals’ statuses to inactive whose registrations had been canceled due to their death or other reasons. Those statuses, he said, have been moved back to canceled.
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