116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
More than 250 Linn County voters who requested an absentee ballot to vote in city and school elections this fall aren’t going to get one. Most of them would have received a ballot in last year’s general election, but not this year.
And that’s because Statehouse Republicans messed with the rules, in the name of stamping out fictitious fraud and appealing to their party’s Trumpist base, which still believes the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen through mail-in ballots. Never mind Iowa had a problem-free, record-turnout election, with record absentee balloting, and that Republicans won damn near everything. They still had to make it tougher to vote by absentee ballot in 2021.
Iowa was the first red state to crack down on voting this year.
"This bill does not suppress a single vote," Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton said of the bill.
Of the 257 ballot requests, 231 people who would have received a ballot last year instead are receiving a letter this year informing them they missed a new request deadline, according to Linn County Auditor Joel Miller. They’ll have to figure out a way to vote in person, or maybe skip voting all together. KCRG chronicled the story of a Marion woman this week who, due to health problems, can’t travel by car. Her ballot request missed the deadline.
“How do you justify this in good conscience?” Miller asked me this week. He’s a Democrat running for secretary of state. “Assuming you have a conscience.”
Last year, auditors could send absentee voter request forms to all voters, and voters could request a ballot up until 10 days before the election. The new GOP law prohibits auditors from sending out request forms, and the request deadline is now 15 days before the election. The early voting period shrank from 29 days last year to 20, and auditors can no longer set up satellite voting stations unless petitioned by residents.
And all absentee ballots must be in the auditor’s office when the polls close on Election Day, or they won’t be counted. That’s even if they’re postmarked before the election.
In Polk County, Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald tweeted on Oct. 22 that 193 voters in the state’s largest county ran into the same issues. Add another 78 in Black Hawk County, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. That’s 500 voters in just three metro counties denied a ballot.
Miller sent information about the new rules to voters and had an absentee ballot request form printed in the Penny Saver shopper. He said about a quarter of all absentee requests came from the shopper.
So what? You might be saying. So a few hundred voters didn’t follow the rules. They had 70 days to request a ballot (down from 120 days in 2020).
But what’s galling is Republicans approved these changes for no good reason whatsoever. They made it harder for Iowans to vote through a law built on dishonest claims. Some GOP lawmakers still think restricting early and mail-in voting mainly hurts Democrats, but judging by 2020, that’s not necessarily true.
The next set of letters Miller dreads sending out will be to voters who sent in ballots that didn’t arrive before the polls closed. Dear citizen, sorry, but your vote didn’t count.
And this is a city-school election. What’s going to happen in 2022, with a governor’s race and a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot? Parties, campaigns and groups likely will mobilize to help voters overcome these restrictions. And hopefully voters will remember who made it harder to vote, for no reason.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org