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Two Groups Challenging Iowa Absentee Voting Changes In Court

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John Pemble
/
IPR file
The lawsuit seeks to block Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate from implementing changes to how election officials can handle absentee ballot requests.

A Democratic nonprofit and a Latino civil rights organization filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to reverse recent changes to Iowa’s absentee voting laws.

A Democratic nonprofit and a Latino civil rights organization filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to reverse recent changes to Iowa’s absentee voting laws. They argue that the new changes increase the risk of voter disenfranchisement, especially as more people are voting by mail during the pandemic.

Republican legislators passed a law in June that prohibits election officials from using the voter registration system to fill in incomplete or incorrect information on absentee ballot request forms. Instead, it requires officials to call, email, or send physical mail to voters to obtain that information.

Majority Forward, a nonprofit affiliated with a super PAC focused on getting Democrats elected to the U.S. Senate, partnered with the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa on the lawsuit.

It says the absentee voting restrictions would violate Iowans’ fundamental right to vote.

“This new law would disproportionately have an impact on our community, and in our estimate, on almost anyone who requests a mailed ballot to be sent to them,” said Joe Henry, LULAC of Iowa’s political director.

The lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court points out that a similar policy enacted in 2017 was struck down by a Polk County District Court judge in early 2019.

This lawsuit names Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

"Iowa courts have already ruled that voter ID is acceptable and constitutional, both at the polls and on absentee ballot requests," Pate said in an emailed statement.

Iowa's 2017 voter ID law has mostly held up in court, though some parts of it have been struck down.

In June, some Republican lawmakers said the new absentee ballot request changes are meant to prevent voter fraud. But there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Iowa.

The bipartisan Iowa State Association of County Auditors opposed the changes, saying in a letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds that this will slow down the process of voting by mail for local election officials and for some voters.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to rule on this matter by September 4. Iowans can already request absentee ballots for the November election, and county auditors will start to send ballots to voters on October 5.