Iowa Judge Upholds Law That Prevents Election Officials From Completing Partially Filled-In Ballots With Rest Of Data


An Iowa judge refused to block a law Monday that prevents election officials from using their database to fill in missing information on partially filled in absentee ballots.

In an opinion dated Friday and released Monday, Judge Lars Anderson rejected arguments from a Latino civil rights organization and a Democratic Party group that claimed the law that was passed this summer was an undue burden on voters, according to the Associated Press.

The Plaintiffs argued the law created a “cumbersome and lengthy process” since it requires election officials to contact the voter and notify them that their ballot is missing information. They said with the mass influx of mail in ballots, delays in the mailing system could hurt voters. (RELATED: How 5 Swing States’ Mail-In Voting Laws Are Setting Up An Election Day Disaster)

Prior to the law, county auditors were allowed to fill in missing information on absentee ballots using their database, according to the opinion.

Some county officials say contacting potential thousands of voters could create an issue if they are unable to reach voters before the deadline to qualify for an absentee ballot, according to the AP.

The Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., Republican National Committee and other Republican groups argued requiring voters to provide basic identification information is in the interest of the state and does not affect the fundamental right to vote, per the opinion.

“Properly identifying absentee ballot requests and requiring a voter to provide identification information fits with the interest of the State in maintaining integrity of the election process,” Anderson wrote.

An absentee ballot election worker consolidates a large stack of absentee ballot applications at the Mecklenburg Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 4, 2020. – The US election is officially open: North Carolina on September 4, 2020 launched vote-by-mail operations for the November 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which is getting uglier by the day.
Worries about the unabated spread of the coronavirus are expected to prompt a major increase in the number of ballots cast by mail, as Americans avoid polling stations. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

Anderson noted that while the law in question “was enacted on a party-line vote” and that the issue is “heavily ingrained with politics,” the court “is prohibited from second-guessing when ‘the legislatures [makes] a policy decision – right or wrong’.”

“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.

Linn, Johnson and Woodbury counties tried to avoid the issue of partially filled in ballots this summer and sent out absentee ballot request forms to voters with their PIN numbers and other personal information pre-filled.

However, the Trump campaign and other Republican groups sued to invalidate the forms, arguing pre-filled ballots went against a “clear directive” from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, who said absentee ballot forms needed to be blank.  Judges agreed, nullifying more than 50,000 ballots.