The Johnson County Auditor’s Office announced on Thursday it will “mail every voter in the county a postage paid absentee ballot request form” for the November general election.
“Due to public health concerns raised from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Johnson County Auditor’s Office strongly encourages you to vote from home for the November 3, 2020 General Election,” the Auditor’s Office said in a written statement. “While Election Day polling places will be open, voting by mail keeps you and our pollworkers safer by limiting potential crowding.”
This announcement comes one day after the Republican majority on the Legislative Council rejected a proposal by Democratic members to allow Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to mail absentee ballot request forms to all active voters in the state for the November election as he did for June primary. The 13 Republicans on the council all voted against it.
A bill passed along party lines in the Iowa legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds last week requires the secretary to get the approval of the Legislative Council before enacting any emergency changes to the state’s election procedures.
In March, Pate decided to send a postage-paid absentee ballot request form to voters because of the danger posed by COVID-19.
“The safety of voters while casting their ballots is our top priority,” he said at the time. “The June 2 primary election will go on as scheduled because it’s important for Iowans to make their voices heard by voting. The safest way to vote will be by mail.”
“The question is who’s in charge of voter turn-out,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said, explaining his opposition to the Democratic proposal on Wednesday. “Is that the secretary of state’s job or is that the campaigns of President Trump and former Vice President Biden and all of us?”
Over 500,000 Iowans voted in the June primary, setting a new state record for primary voter turnout. Both Democrats and Republicans overwhelming took advantage of the opportunity to use absentee ballots to vote, according to numbers released by Pate on Saturday.
— Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (@IowaSOS) June 29, 2020
On Wednesday, Iowa Starting Line reported that a large majority of Republicans in the Iowa legislature also voted by mail in June.
Thirty-seven of the Iowa House’s 53 Republicans, or 70%, voted absentee in the primary. Twenty-two of the state’s 32 Republican senators, or 69%, also cast an absentee ballot.
The new restriction on the secretary of state’s power to administer elections does not apply to the county auditors who supervise elections at the local level.
“Mailings to Johnson County voters will be sent out in four groups beginning the last week of July with rural areas and senior housing complexes,” the Auditor’s Office said. “High turnover neighborhoods and University of Iowa residence halls will receive the requests by early September.”
Voters needing to update their address to ensure they receive the form can do so online.