Staff Columnist

Why trash Iowa's voting system? Fraud!

A close-up view shows intricate details on the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abe
A close-up view shows intricate details on the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

It worked so well Republicans had to trash it.

County auditors in Iowa who received absentee ballot request forms from voters with some information missing, such as the voter ID number, could simply fill in that information from voter database records. The voter would then be mailed a ballot. Public servants, serving the public.

The system worked great in June, when a record number of Iowans voted in party primaries. Most voted safely by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic. A victory for democracy.

Naturally, Republicans who run the Legislature and who are always thinking up new barriers to voting couldn’t let it stand. They passed a bill barring auditors from filling in missing information. Instead, they’d have to contact voters by email, phone or mail, raising the prospect some voters would not receive a ballot due to a technicality. This is a feature, not a flaw.

Similar language passed a few years ago was thrown out by a Polk County judge. The League of United Latin American Citizens and a Democratic group, Majority Forward, have filed a lawsuit to overturn the new law. So Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, both Democrats, looked upon this change and found it doesn’t say anything about barring auditors from sending voters ballot request forms with all the pertinent information already filled out. So that’s what they did.

The Iowa Legislative Council tried to stop them. But at last check, the 24-member panel of lawmakers can’t make law. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate also has scolded the auditors and his office’s lawyer, according to reporting by Laura Belin at the website Bleeding Heartland, sent Miller and Weipert letters demanding documents and asking a list of questions. It seems Pate may be fixing to go to court.

The Republican National Committee is urging Pate to take action. The RNC wants the Linn and Johnson mailings declared invalid and each voter notified as such. Never mind that thousands of request forms already have been returned.

One of the RNC’s claims is that Linn and Johnson voters will face a lower chance of being denied a ballot by this lousy law than Iowans in other counties, violating their Constitutional right to equal protection. We must suppress every vote equally. You can’t make this stuff up.

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Meanwhile, the Trump Campaign, the Republican Party of Iowa, the RNC and other GOP groups are seeking to intervene in the lawsuit aimed at striking down the new law. They want the suit dismissed.

Why are Republicans working so hard to make it harder to vote? They claim it’s to fight voter fraud. Voter fraud is everywhere. That strange noise you hear in the night? Voter fraud. The reason your dog is barking at seemingly nothing? Voter fraud. Worried about COVID-19? Voter fraud is far worse.

In reality, Republicans fear Donald Trump might lose a tight race in Iowa. Ditto with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and U.S. House candidates. When more people vote, especially in places like Johnson and Linn counties, the GOP believes its candidates face tougher sledding. So, by all means, change the rules.

So yet another system that worked gets trashed. Republicans should be ashamed, if they weren’t so shameless.

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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