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RNC Asks Iowa Secretary Of State To Block Pre-Filled Ballot Request Forms In Two Counties

voting sign
John Pemble/IPR file

The Republican National Committee is asking Iowa’s Republican secretary of state to stop two county election officials from sending pre-filled absentee ballot request forms to voters ahead of the November election.

The county auditors in Linn and Johnson counties, both Democrats, have already started mailing the forms to some voters with all of the required information filled in. Voters who receive these pre-filled request forms and wish to vote by mail simply have to sign them, send them back to the auditor, and wait to receive a ballot starting in early October.

The RNC sent a letter to Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate on Monday that accuses the Linn and Johnson county auditors of giving their voters “an unconstitutional advantage in the November election,” violating state law, undermining Pate’s authority and that of the Legislative Council, and “circumventing crucial safeguards on the integrity of the absentee voting process.”

“We respectfully request that you exercise your authority as State Commissioner of Elections…to issue an order prohibiting county auditors and other election officials from distributing absentee ballot request forms with voter information filled out,” the letter reads.

Because some pre-filled forms have already been sent to voters, the RNC is also asking Pate to direct county auditors to disregard any pre-filled information on absentee ballot requests they receive.

“I look forward to the opportunity to resolve this issue without the need for litigation,” the RNC letter reads.

Pate’s office has already notified county election officials that they believe sending a form pre-filled with voter identification numbers violates Iowa law.

But on Monday, Pate’s spokesperson Kevin Hall did not directly answer a question from IPR asking if the secretary of state’s office will take any action against the Linn and Johnson county auditors.

“When we have more to say we’ll let you know,” Hall said.

In a joint statement, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said their actions are part of “making every effort to give active voters in Linn and Johnson counties all reasonable options to assure that every vote counts and can be cast in the safest ways possible.”

“It is extremely concerning that the RNC is placing pressure on…Pate to impede our efforts to make voting easier and safer for Iowans during a pandemic,” Miller and Weipert said. “This is as wrong as it is unprecedented. Secretary Pate would be wise to ignore this pressure to contaminate Iowa’s storied fair election processes.”

Miller and Weipert decided to send the pre-filled absentee ballot request forms before Pate released a proposal to send blank ballot request forms to all active registered voters in Iowa.

The Republican-led Legislative Council approved Pate’s proposal earlier this month. It also included a provision saying county auditors may only send blank ballot request forms to voters.

“Pre-filling absentee ballot request forms with voters’ personal identifying information gives critics of absentee voting an opportunity to question the validity of election results in those counties,” Pate said in a statement. “Iowa courts have already ruled that voter ID is acceptable and constitutional, both at the polls and on absentee ballot requests.”

Miller said he disagrees with the secretary of state’s interpretation of the law.