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Sen. Ernst “Didn’t Have A Problem” With Mailing of Absentee Ballot Request Forms

John Pemble / IPR file
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in 2017.

Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst weighed in on a bill that passed in the GOP-led Iowa state Senate that would prevent Iowa’s secretary of state from sending applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate did that for the primary election earlier this month to encourage Iowans to vote from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa had a record turnout.

“I, in light of COVID-19, don’t have a problem with what Secretary Pate did,” Ernst said on a call with Iowa reporters on Thursday. “I am very hopeful that by the fall that we can return to operations as normal.”

The Iowa State Association of County Auditors, which represents Republican and Democratic election officials, opposed the bill.  Ernst, who previously served as a county auditor in Iowa, says elections are a state issue and the legislature can have those conversations, but overall Iowa’s election system does currently allow for voters to request absentee ballots.

Ernst says she wants to make sure polling places are open in the fall but any Iowa voter should be able to request an absentee ballot

Ernst, who was first elected in 2014, is on the ballot in November. Her Democratic opponent, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, called the bill passed in the Iowa Senate “unacceptable and wrong.”

“Instead of celebrating last week’s historic turnout, Republican politicians in Iowa are trying to make it harder to vote,” Greenfield tweeted.

The bill was sent to the Iowa House, where it's expected to be changed.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.