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Fixing Iowa Absentee Ballots

Phil Romans
Not all absentee ballots are being counted in Iowa.

Current Iowa law requires absentee ballots to be postmarked by the day before the election and received by noon on the following Monday. But what if the ballots aren't postmarked at all?

That's the question facing Iowa lawmakers. Some ballots aren't being postmarked and thus aren't being counted by county auditors. Wapello County was sued in 2010 over absentee ballots. County Auditor Kelly Spurgeon says the problem originates at the post office.

"We would get a lot of envelopes back in the mail that didn't have a postmark, and the post office just took an ink pen and wiped through the stamp, so that we couldn't reuse the stamp. And that was the purpose of them doing that. It didn't have an actual date that they had received it."

She welcomes legislation to fix the issue. The House proposed a bill that would simply require ballots to be in county auditors' hands by the time the polls closed on Election Day. The Senate has proposed a more complicated bill that would keep current Iowa law in place but would also accept ballots without a postmark up to 5 p.m. on the day after Election Day.

On this episode of River to River, guest host Clay Masters speaks with Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell; Representative Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa; and Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo. In the second half of the program, Erin Murphy, of Lee Enterprises, and Catherine Lucey, of the Associated Press, join Masters and Russell for a reporters' roundtable.