Guest Columnist

Pate: How to make your voice heard on or before Nov. 3

The U.S. Postal Service is well-equipped to handle absentee ballot mailings

Linn County Auditor's Office election services Mike Sepulveda (left) and Carole Snell bring in returned absentee ballots
Linn County Auditor's Office election services Mike Sepulveda (left) and Carole Snell bring in returned absentee ballots at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. The ballots are escorted by a member of the Democratic and Republican parties. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowans have options about how we choose to vote. We can cast an absentee ballot from the comfort of our home, in-person at the county auditor’s office, or vote at the polls on Election Day. All three methods are safe and secure. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to have a voting plan.

A lot of Iowans have been swamped with absentee ballot request forms in the past few weeks. My office sent forms statewide in early September. Other officials and groups have mailed request forms as well. If you want to vote absentee, you only need to fill out one request form. Only one request per voter will be honored.

The exception is those voters in Johnson, Linn and Woodbury counties who received pre-filled forms from their county auditors. Voters in those counties who choose to vote absentee should send in request forms that were not pre-filled. That is the best way to ensure your vote will count.

It’s important for Iowans to know that the U.S. Postal Service is well-equipped to handle absentee ballot mailings. Usually during a general election, approximately 40 percent of Iowans vote absentee. Nearly 650,000 Iowans chose that option in 2016. That number could double this year. However, the USPS processes and delivers more than 472 million pieces of mail every day. If every American voter returned their ballot by mail, over 330 million ballots over the course of the elections, it would equal only three-fourths of one day’s work.

A longtime, informal motto of the U.S. Postal Service states: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Carriers still come to every home six days per week to deliver mail and collect any outgoing items.

There are more than 4,000 USPS return boxes across Iowa, located in every community throughout the state. In most cases you can drop your mail off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, while most of us sleep, Postal Service employees in Iowa are working throughout the night to process our mail.

The Secretary of State’s Office is in constant communication with the USPS and has been reassured multiple times that they can handle all the absentee ballot mailings for Iowans ahead of Election Day. Voters just need to submit their requests and ballots by the deadlines.

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Iowa recently became the first state to require a special machine-read code on every ballot envelope. This Intelligent Mail bar code allows the county auditor and the post office to monitor your ballot through the process. You can track the status of your request form and your ballot at VoterReady.Iowa.gov.

Requests for absentee mail-in ballots must be received by county auditors by Saturday, Oct. 24. Ballots must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2 and received before noon on Nov. 9.

Voting absentee is safe and secure, but if you prefer to vote at the polls, we are taking all the necessary steps to protect you, your vote, and poll workers. Polls will be open in every county from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. on November 3. Whichever method you choose, the most important issue is for you to make your voice heard. Be a voter.

Paul Pate is Iowa’s secretary of state.

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