Staff Editorial

One more trick in Iowa Republicans' 2020 bag of ballot stifling

Witch hunt against voter fraud is keeping Iowans away from the ballot box

Linn County Auditor's Office election services staff at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in southwest Cedar Rapids,
Linn County Auditor's Office election services staff at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

At this point, it’s like a recurring nightmare. Whenever Iowans find a way to make it easier to vote during the coronavirus pandemic, Republican politicians find a way to ruin it.

Iowa officials erected unnecessary red tape for requesting an absentee ballot, instilled mistrust of the postal service and now they are making it harder for Iowa voters to drop off their ballots in person. It’s almost like the ruling party wants fewer people to vote.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office this month issued new guidance for county auditors collecting absentee ballots in drop boxes. Under that directive, such boxes can only be placed on county-owned property adjacent to buildings. That disrupts plans by a few county auditors, including Linn County’s Joel Miller, to place boxes in convenient outlying locations, such as grocery stores.

Not only are Republicans trying to trick voters into thinking the mail is not a secure way to vote, they also are determined to take away a safe and convenient alternative to the postal service.

More attacks on voting from Iowa Republicans

A few county auditors — including Miller, and Johnson County’s Travis Weipert — have admirably pushed back against ballot stifling, but their efforts are not enough to match the political and legal onslaught coming from our leaders in Des Moines.

Early absentee voting, including mail-in ballots, is a tried-and-true method of securely casting a ballot. If there was some nefarious plot to corrupt the voting system through the mail, compelling evidence surely would have emerged by now from the five states that conduct most or all of their voting by mail.


The option to vote by mail has proved enormously popular among Iowans, especially during the infectious disease pandemic. This year’s June primary shattered turnout records, which can be attributed to the state sending absentee ballot request forms to every voter.

While about 40 percent of Iowans usually cast absentee ballots, Secretary of State Paul Pate said this week he expects as much as 80 percent of the electorate to vote that way in advance of the November general election.

In the past few years, Republicans in control of state government have passed laws to limit early voting, make it harder for third-party and independent candidates to get on the ballot, and require voters to show photo identification at the polls. Their witch hunt against the imaginary problem of widespread voter fraud does nothing except to keep eligible Iowans away from the ballot box.

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