Allamakee County Auditor explains the importance of completing the required fields on Absentee Ballot Request Forms and mailing those forms to voters

This year’s General Election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. Most ballots cast in the June 2, 2020 Primary Election were by voters who voted absentee from home.

Due to an emergency proclamation for COVID-19 from the Governor, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office mailed an Absentee Ballot Request form to all active voters for the June 2 Primary. Legislation passed after the Primary now requires approval by a legislative council before the Secretary of State is allowed to do a similar mailing for any future election.

County Auditors are able to conduct an Absentee Request Form mailing to registered voters in their county, but there is an expense to this, which would be around $5,000 in Allamakee County. When the budget was completed in January, this expense was not considered or included because COVID-19 was not an issue in January. If a mailing is done by the Auditor for the General Election, a budget amendment may be necessary later in the fiscal year to account for this and any other COVID-19 related election expenses that were not included in the budget.

ABSENTEE BALLOT REQUEST FORM MAILINGS
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic creating an emergency proclamation for the Primary, the Secretary of State made a decision to mail out an Absentee Ballot Request form to every active voter for this year’s Primary election. This is not standard practice. Typically, organizations mail out Absentee Ballot Request forms to voters for General Elections - including, but not limited to, the state political parties.

In addition to the organizations that will mail Absentee Ballot Request forms to voters for the General Election, the Secretary of State or the County Auditor may be mailing Absentee Ballot Request forms to voters, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is undetermined at this time.

Anyone who receives more than one Absentee Ballot Request form in the mail is only required to return one to the Auditor. Returning more than one request does not result in receiving more than one ballot. Each voter is only allowed one active ballot. If a duplicate request is received, the Auditor’s office simply staples it to the original when they realize the voter has already been mailed a ballot. Anyone who receives a request form in the mail and is not sure whether they have already submitted one may call the Auditor’s office to check before mailing it in.

IMPORTANT REQUIRED FIELDS
Important required fields on the Absentee Ballot Request form that are not completed by the voter will cause a delay in the voter receiving a ballot. Forms do not specifically indicate which fields are required. Also, some forms mailed by organizations are “pre-filled” but the incorrect information may be pre-filled, such as the address.

If information is missing or incorrect, the Auditor’s office is required to contact the voter to obtain the missing or correct information, or send a letter asking for the missing or correct information. With 2,300 Absentee Ballot Request forms received for the Primary in Allamakee County earlier this year, several hundred had missing or incorrect information. The Allamakee County Auditor’s office is hoping to reduce the percentage of forms with missing or incorrect information for the General Election by printing this article to help voters understand the importance of these required fields.

The seven items highlighted below are the required fields on the form, along with an explanation of what should be included in them. They are numbered in red for reference according to their corresponding location on the sample of the Absentee Ballot Request form that is printed above:

#1) NAME - If the name on an individual’s voter registration does not match the name on their Absentee Ballot Request form, the Auditor’s office must contact them. Anyone whose name has changed due to marriage, divorce or another reason should take time now to make sure their Voter Registration record is up-to-date prior to requesting a ballot.

Submitting a new Voter Registration form is required to change a name on a voter registration. This can be done online at www.sos.iowa.gov by clicking on “Register to Vote” on the right side of the screen. Voter Registration forms are also available at the Auditor’s office, www.sos.iowa.gov or www.allamakee.us/auditor2, or call 563-568-3522 to have a Voter Registration mailed.

#2) DATE OF BIRTH - This requirement helps the Auditor’s office verify they are issuing a ballot to the correct person. If this is pre-filled, verify this information is correct.

#3) ID NUMBER - One of the following two options is required: either a Driver’s License/Non-Operator ID number OR a Voter Personal Identification Number (PIN). Registered voters likely only have a Voter PIN if they do not have a Driver’s License/ID number. Again, this is required and allows the Auditor’s office to verify they have selected the correct voter to send a ballot to.

#4) RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS - Anyone who has moved and hasn’t updated their Voter Registration record may do so by visiting www.sos.iowa.gov and clicking “Register to Vote”, or use any of the websites listed above. Many pre-filled forms will place a mailing address (i.e. Post Office Box) on this line. This line MUST read as the voter’s STREET address and must match the voter’s record. If a P.O. Box or other mailing address is in this spot, voters should cross it off and write their Residential/Street address. A P.O. Box or other mailing address goes under the next section, which reads: “Where your ballot should be mailed”.

#5) WHERE YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT SHOULD BE MAILED - This only needs to be filled in if a voter receives mail at a P.O. Box instead of their residential/street address, or if they want their ballot mailed to somewhere other than their residence.

#6) ELECTION DATE/TYPE - This information may be pre-filled, but if not make sure to fill it in so the Auditor’s office knows it is the 11/3/2020 General Election that a ballot is being requested for.

#7) SIGN and DATE - A missing signature and date is going to cause a long delay in receiving a ballot. The Auditor’s office cannot simply call the voter and verify their identity and sign the form for the voter. They need an original signature, which means either mailing the form back to the voter, or the voter filling out a whole new form to mail in or having the voter stop in and sign the form.

Contact Information on the form is not required but is helpful if there is missing information or questions about a request. Since most people no longer have telephone lines that are listed in a phone book, this information can help the Auditor’s office reach voters in a more timely manner. Voters can check the box to the right of that section on the form if they do not want this information added to their voter record. When organizations purchase voter information lists for mailings and/or other campaign purposes, this information would not be included on these lists if this box is checked.

The first day the Allamakee County Auditor’s office can accept Absentee Ballot Request forms for the November 3 General Election is Monday, July 6. Absentee Ballot Request forms can be printed from the Allamakee County website at www.allamakee.us/auditor2. For any election related questions, call the Allamakee County Auditor’s office at 563-568-3522.
 

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