Capital Clicks

Judge upholds law prohibiting auditors from correcting or completing absentee ballot applications

By: - September 28, 2020 2:51 pm

County auditors say they had to turn down hundreds of voters who requested absentee ballots under a new deadline. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch)

An Iowa judge has denied a temporary injunction and upheld a Republican-backed law that prohibits county auditors from correcting or completing portions of voter-submitted absentee ballot applications, according to court documents released on Monday.

In July, League of United Latin American Citizens and Majority Forward filed a lawsuit alleging the measure impeded Iowans’ fundamental right to vote and sought a temporary injunction.

In the past, Iowa county auditors could search their databases for missing voter personal identification numbers on absentee ballot request forms and fill them in. But the new law requires auditors to call or email voters who submitted incomplete applications, which can create a “cumbersome and lengthy process,” due to the high number of absentee ballot requests this year, the plaintiffs argued.

That could result in unequal access to voting, particularly for people who are unfamiliar with the absentee ballot process, according to the plaintiffs.

In his ruling, Judge Lars Anderson wrote that while the law may be politically charged, it does not interfere with Iowans’ fundamental right to vote because they may still go out on Election Day.

While absentee ballots may ease the voting process for some people, federally, they’re typically not considered fundamental because citizens are still not denied the ability to cast their ballots, Anderson wrote.

“A law is a law, subject to the same standard of review by the court, regardless of the political makeup of the legislators who supported the law or the parties lining up for or against in legal challenges after the law passes,” Anderson wrote in his order.

Judges have also issued rulings invalidating absentee ballot request forms sent out by auditors in Johnson, Linn and Woodbury counties that included voter identification information.

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