Staff Editorial

Voters, take care to make your ballots count

A box of ballot envelopes on a shelf in a basement room at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Wedne
A box of ballot envelopes on a shelf in a basement room at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The good news is Linn County voters, clearly, are highly motivated to cast their ballots this fall.

So much so that when the Linn County Auditor’s Office sent out sample ballots to more than 90,000 registered voters, 489 people filled out that sample, apparently thinking it to be a real ballot. The word “sample” scrawled across the ballot faded during printing. The mailing included an absentee ballot request form and a return envelope, prompting some to erroneously mail in the sample ballot.

Unfortunately, 44 of those returned samples lacked a return address, making it impossible for auditor’s staff to alert those voters of their mistake. We hope a series of media reports have reached those voters, who can still vote by traditional means. Sent-in samples have been shredded.

Now that the auditor’s office is in the midst of mailing and handling thousands of absentee ballots and requests, we agree with Auditor Joel Miller that another mailing alerting voters to the sample ballot issue could create more confusion.

This episode is a reminder that mistakes can cost voters their right to be heard.

Two years ago in Linn County, more than 3,000 requested absentee ballots never were returned. Among those returned, 180 voters failed to provide a signature.

Voters also should be on the lookout for scams and snafus.

In 2016, fake ads on social media platforms told voters across the country they could vote by text. In Iowa, texts sent by a campaign, intended to inform voters of their polling places, gave out the wrong locations. Correct Linn County polling places are on the auditor’s website.

Secretary of State Paul Pate has proposed legislation requiring election text messages and other electronic communications to carry a disclosure statement. We think that’s a good idea.


Bottom line: If you received a sample ballot, study it, but don’t send it in. If you’re planning to request an absentee ballot, that request must be received by the auditor’s office by 5 p.m. Oct. 27. Absentee ballots must be received by the auditor’s office before the polls close on Election Day, or be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 5, if received later. Voters can cast absentee ballots in-person at the auditor’s office on weekdays through Nov. 5.

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