ELECTION 2020

Iowa justices urged to halt absentee ballot request law

Democrats, Latino group seek to block GOP-backed law

The Linn County Auditor's Office, which mailed absentee ballot request forms to active registered voters, has been sendi
The Linn County Auditor’s Office, which mailed absentee ballot request forms to active registered voters, has been sending postcards to those who returned the requests to let them know the ballots will be mailed Oct. 5. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)

The Iowa Supreme Court is being urged by Democrats and a Latino civil rights group to block a new Republican-backed law that could leave thousands of requesters without absentee ballots.

Majority Forward, a group aligned with Senate Democrats, and the League of Latino United Citizens have asked the high court to put the new law on hold immediately.

They’re appealing a ruling released Monday in Johnson County, where Judge Lars Anderson declined to block the new law. Anderson found the law would likely survive judicial review, claiming that requests for absentee ballots do not implicate the fundamental right to vote.

At issue is a law passed by the Iowa Legislature in June that prohibits county elections commissioners from filling in missing information on absentee ballot requests like they have in the past.

Instead, they have to contact voters by phone, email and then mail to get them to fill in the information themselves.

County officials say this will delay processing and could result in a significant number of requesters not completing forms before the deadline.

The plaintiffs say a conservative estimate is that 10,000 to 35,000 people statewide who turn in requests up to 10 days before the deadline could be impacted.

The court will decide whether to take the case in coming days.

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It previously declined to review rulings that invalidated tens of thousands of applications in Linn and Woodbury counties at the request of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Auditors in those counties had filled in some information on absentee ballot request forms — such as name and address — when state rules specify the request forms must be blank.

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