Iowa ready for a surge of absentee voting

by Travis Fischer

Election Day is officially Tuesday, Nov. 3, however one could argue that the 2020 General Election truly begins in just a couple weeks.

On Monday, Oct. 5, county auditors across the state will start to allow in-person voting at their offices and begin the process of mailing out general election ballots to voters who have requested to vote absentee.

“That’s what’s special about Iowa. We have a lot of options and Iowans like to have choices,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. “Nov. 3 is not the one and only day. Every day is an Election Day for somebody that is casting a ballot in Iowa.”

Ballot Request Bombardment

The State of Iowa has always had a very flexible system for voters that want to cast their vote early, but having a highly contested Presidential election during a deadly pandemic has put a spotlight on the state’s absentee voting system.

In a typical election, the state often sees between 35-60 percent of voters using the absentee ballot process, but with more people inclined to avoid crowded polling areas this year, that percentage is expected to significantly increase.

“I think the state average will easily exceed 60 percent,” said Pate. “If it’s not a record year, it’s going to be pretty close.”

The Secretary of State’s office recently mailed out absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter in the state, but it’s likely that mailer is far from the only ballot request form voters have received in the last several weeks. Voter advocacy organizations and political parties have been extremely proactive in this election, mass mailing ballot request forms to make sure every potential voter has a chance to apply.

With so many ballot request forms being sent out and high profile figures casting doubt on the validity of voting by mail, there are some misconceptions about the security of the absentee voting process and its ability to keep track of who is voting.

Contrary to what some might assume, receiving multiple applications for an absentee ballot is not a sign of a scheme to commit voter fraud. The application form is freely available on the Secretary of State’s website to be printed out by anybody and while Iowa courts have ruled that state entities cannot use voter registration data to pre-fill some of the information on the forms, private organizations such as the Center for Voter Information or the Iowa Voter Project have no such restrictions.

“If you’re a registered, active voter, you’re going to be receiving ballot request forms,” said Franklin County Auditor Michelle Giddings.

Regardless of how many request forms out there, each voter still only gets one vote. When a

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