Guest Columnist

Winneshiek Auditor pratices integrity first

Early November 3, 2013, the sun rose and gave the Decorah’s Winneshiek County Courthouse foliage fabulous color. (Joyce A. Meyer/Freelance)
Early November 3, 2013, the sun rose and gave the Decorah’s Winneshiek County Courthouse foliage fabulous color. (Joyce A. Meyer/Freelance)

As the Iowa House District 55 election dispute plays out, I want to express confidence in my colleague and friend, Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines.

Ben and I started as county auditors together in 2009. Since then, I have enjoyed learning and discussing with Ben. In fact, given that he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat, some of our discussions are lively.

But, what I have learned from our friendship is that Ben is about integrity first. I know Ben doesn’t make a decision or recommendation without careful consideration of all the facts.

I’ve spoken to Ben on several occasions about the situation in District 55, and I believe he has properly administered this election.

There is no doubt that a question exists about what the Code of Iowa means in reference to an “intelligent mail barcode.” That reference, to me, is to a specific program offered by the U.S. Postal Service.

My county is one of a few that uses the intelligent mail bar code system through the USPS. I have to have my absentee ballot return envelopes printed with a sequential bar code specific to my county. I then log into my account with the USPS and download a daily report with which I match up my bar code information to determine when a ballot was placed in the mail system.

This is the process that I believe the Code of Iowa references. This bar code is technically different from the bar code that the post office places on an envelope.

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By the way, the Iowa Administrative Rules addressing absentee ballots specifically mentions “Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) Tracing.” That was the specific name of the USPS program (the program has since changed to “Informed Visibility Mail Tracking and Reporting” and should be updated).

This section of Iowa Administrative Rules, 721—21.14 (53) is being overlooked by many observers wrapped up in this tight race. But it was not overlooked by Auditor Steines because he places election administration integrity before politics.

A resolution to this matter is before the courts. I believe the more appropriate process for this matter is to contest the election under the rules in Code of Iowa Chapter 57.

Let’s set aside politics and allow the system to work in due time. We will get a decision, and then we all will adjust according to that decision.

For the record, I would be pleased if the process decides to count any ballots proven by the internal USPS bar codes to have been submitted before midnight Nov. 5. In the meantime, I am satisfied with the job done by my friend Ben Steines.

• Eric Van Lancker is Clinton County auditor and 2018 Iowa State Association of County Auditors District 6 president.

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