ELECTION 2020

Not sure which ballot request form to complete? Just pick one without pre-filled voter ID or driver's license number

Many groups sending forms to get their members to vote by mail during pandemic

A stack of mailed absentee ballot request forms. (Gazette photo)
A stack of mailed absentee ballot request forms. (Gazette photo)
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Is your mailbox jammed with absentee ballot request forms and you don’t know which one to fill out and send in? You’re not alone.

“In the past weeks, we keep getting so many,” said Ana Jimenez, 31, of Iowa City. “Some are addressed to me, some to my husband. Some just say ‘current resident.’ It’s getting so old.”

The Iowa Secretary of State, county auditors and nonprofit groups like the Center for Voter Information are sending absentee ballot request forms in advance of the Nov. 3 election to try to increase voter participation. Political groups are getting into the act, too, with the Republican National Committee sending ballot request forms to Eastern Iowans who respond to a text message, officials said.

“Vote-at-home has become the big thing because of COVID right now,” said Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert. “Every group wants to make sure their members get out to vote.”

The forms showing up in mailboxes are not ballots but forms needed to request absentee ballots. A voter who wishes to vote absentee needs to complete the form and send it in to receive an absentee ballot.

MAIL-IN BALLOT FAQ: What you need to know about voting by mail in Iowa

Iowa judges have said pre-filled forms that list a voter’s driver’s license number or four-digit voter ID number are invalid. But if the form just has other information, including name, address and date of birth, it is legal and can be completed by a would-be voter, Weipert said.

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“The best ones to send are ones that go directly to the auditor’s office,” he said. “If you mailed those to the Secretary of State, they will probably be mailed back to the auditor.”

Even if people complete and submit more than one form, they still will get just one absentee ballot, Weipert said. Turning in more than one request form isn’t voter fraud.

Several Gazette readers said on Facebook that getting multiple forms in the mail made them question whether they could be confident their vote would be counted in the November election.

“After you get two, three, four it makes me feel like you can’t trust mail-in voting,” Jimenez said. “If I have to wear five masks and a face shield, it seems like it’s better to take time vote in person.”

But Weipert and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said absentee voting has worked in past elections and ballots can be tracked by voters.

People who submit their absentee ballot request forms will get a ballot in the mail after Oct. 5, when early voting starts in Iowa, Weipert said. The completed ballot can be sent back through the mail and tracked at the Secretary of State’s website with the voter’s name and date of birth.

If for some reason the ballot doesn’t show up in the online database closer to Nov. 3, county auditors can void the absentee ballot and a voter can go to the polls in person, Weipert said.

Registered voters also can vote in person starting Oct. 5 at designated early voting sites. In Linn County, early voting will be available curbside near the Linn County Public Service Center, at 823 Third St. SW, in Cedar Rapids, or, starting Oct. 6, in the Lindale Mall Food Court.

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Johnson County early voting can be done walk up or drive-through in the county parking ramp at 855 S. Dubuque St.

To vote in person, people should bring an ID with their current address or another document that confirms a new address, Miller said. For people displaced by the Aug. 10 derecho, the address they intend to reside at is acceptable, he said.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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