States across the nation have been forced to adjust quickly to a new reality as the spread of the coronavirus threatens public health. This has been particularly difficult for states like Iowa that are forced to weigh the best methods to protect voters’ health while still allowing the primary elections to move forward.
Iowa’s leadership has stepped up to this challenge. Secretary of State Paul Pate has taken sensible steps to expand access to absentee voting, even going so far as to mail request forms for absentee ballots to every active registered voter in Iowa. This doubtlessly goes a long way toward keeping our state healthy as voters can adhere to health experts’ social distancing guidance.
One of the groups of voters that will benefit the most from these efforts is also one that turns out the most on Election Day: older voters. Older Americans are at a higher risk of serious health problems resulting from the coronavirus, meaning that leaving their homes to vote could represent a serious risk to their health.
Instead, these Iowans will be able to exercise their right to vote from the safety of their own homes. The whole process can be completed without going outside and older voters will be better protected from the threat of the coronavirus because of it.
Pate also extended the absentee voting period to 40 days, so voters have plenty of time to request their mail-in ballots, fill them out, and return them before the deadline. This will help protect against any unforeseen delays they encounter in submitting their ballots.
Organizations such as AARP have been working hard to highlight the risks faced by older Americans during the coronavirus pandemic and particularly the difficulties the crisis poses to those who want to make sure their voices are heard on Election Day. In Iowa, AARP has implemented a radio advertising campaign describing the ways that mail-in voting can protect the health of older voters.
Ensuring that all voters, particularly high-risk voters like older Americans, have access to absentee voting options is an important step toward achieving that goal. Pate should be commended for his efforts. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is Friday, May 22.
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Stephanie Crowley is a GOP campaign veteran from Cedar Rapids and now resides in West Des Moines.