State Watch

Iowa Democrats sue to allow pre-filled ballot request forms

The Iowa Democratic Party and several affiliated groups have sued Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) after he blocked county auditors from sending pre-filled absentee ballot request forms to voters.

The party, along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, argued Pate’s emergency election directive violated the counties’ home rule authority under the state constitution.

“Iowa Democrats will fight tooth and nail against every malicious effort by desperate Republican politicians to suppress our fundamental right to vote,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Mark Smith said in a statement, according to the Des Moines Register. “We look forward to the court upholding the local authority of county auditors and rightfully validating the absentee ballot requests.”

“It is absolutely outrageous that the secretary of state’s position is that voters who have done everything right, who have received an absentee ballot application with information helpful to their information being pre-filled should now face disenfranchisement in the middle of a pandemic and natural disasters,” Marc Elias, an attorney for the plaintiffs who frequently represents Democrats and Democratic organizations, said in a statement.

In the July directive, Pate ordered auditors to only distribute blank absentee request forms. Iowa’s GOP-controlled Legislative Council approved the directive, and Pate’s office is set to mail out blank request forms in the coming weeks.

Last week, in separate cases, Iowa judges invalidated 50,000 ballot requests in Linn County and 14,000 requests in Woodbury County because the voters in question had used forms with pre-filled information.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue county auditors have sent out pre-filled request forms for years and cited nonprofits and organizations that have done the same.

“There have been no reported incidents of fraud associated with these mailings or even allegations of fraud,” the lawsuit states. “In fact, these mailings have never been a point of litigation, controversy or public debate in prior years.”

Tags 2020 election absentee voting Iowa mail-in ballots
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