The Republican National Committee, the Trump campaign, the Republican Party of Iowa and other GOP campaign organizations dragged Linn County Auditor Joel Miller into court Thursday, all because he tried to make it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots during a worsening pandemic.
Republicans don’t like the fact that Miller and auditors in Johnson and Woodbury Counties sent voters absentee ballot request forms with personal information filled in, including the voter PIN number.
Just hours after Wednesday’s Linn County hearing, District Judge Ian Thornhill ruled the ballot request forms are invalid, spawning confusion and delays for voters who now must start over again in seeking a mail-in ballot.
We have the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature to thank for this sad saga. GOP lawmakers returned to the capitol in June determined to make it tougher to vote by mail, even after Iowa’s primary election drew record turnout due to widespread use of absentee ballots. Lawmakers approved a bill prohibiting the traditional practice of local auditors helping voters by filling in spaces they left blank or illegible on request forms, using database information. Instead, voters now would have to be notified of any blanks, a delay that could keep them from casting a ballot.
GOP Sec. of State Paul Pate, toeing the party line, issued an emergency directive ordering auditors to send out only blank forms. But Miller sent them out anyway, arguing no law or rules prohibited him from doing so. Tens of thousands have been returned by voters. Republicans now have succeeded in having the request forms voided.
It’s sad and maddening to see the lengths they’ll go to make it harder to vote, all under the guise of fighting “fraud.” The GOP lawsuits don’t cite a single case of fraud involving absentee ballots in Iowa.
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The conduct of Pate, who received applause for the primary turnout, is disappointing. Not only did he issue a misguided emergency directive and aid the GOP’s lawsuit but his office now says counties can’t use drop boxes at grocery stores and other locations to collect absentee ballots. A third of Iowa counties use drop boxes. The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday moved to protect the local drop box system. More lawsuits to come, perhaps.
You have to ask yourself what is it about convenient voting amid a pandemic and as Iowans recover from a derecho that scares Republicans? Somehow they’ve become convinced that slicing turnout and causing delays and confusion will help their candidates, particularly President Donald Trump, who spouts lies about mail-in voter fraud almost daily.
Republicans should stop their attacks on voting and do more to win over voters, instead of working so hard to suppress their ballots.
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