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Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and State Director of Elections Heidi Burhans visited Mount Ayr Wednesday to meet with Ringgold County auditor/Commissioner of Elections Amanda Waske to discuss the recent general election and other topics related to her office’s responsibilities. Pate routinely meets with election officials in each county at least once a year to gain their input as well as to relate information regarding election procedures.
“After every election, there’s a moment of reflection,” Pate said. “We do it normally in our office as well as I’m sure the county auditors do, and the legislature does.”
In response to issues that arose during the November general election, the Iowa legislature recently passed and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that makes a number of changes to Iowa voting procedures.
Among those changes are prohibiting county auditors from mailing out unsolicited requests for absentee ballots, having polls close at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m., and taking steps to identify inactive individuals in the registered voter database.
Pate cited an example in the past general election where three county auditors violated state law by pre-filling out absentee ballot request forms, including confidential voter ID numbers, and mailing them out unsolicited.
“In my years as Secretary, we’ve had very few instances of this happening,” Pate said. “It was unfortunate in this past cycle we had three auditors who just said were not going to follow the law. It was very frustrating because my office specifically told them this is what the law says… They were told don’t do it and they did it anyway. And then the court said they did wrong.”
Pate said the new law gives election officials some recourse if an alleged infraction occurs prior to taking the issue to court.
Pate said reducing by one hour the length of time polls are open shouldn’t significantly impact voter access.
“Iowa had the second-longest polling hours in the country,” he said. “Actually, it’s the same as New York… It doesn’t have to be that long because we’ve seen voters have it figured out.”
In regard to maintenance of the registered voter database, Pate explained any voter who does not participate in a general election will be moved to an “inactive” status. The voter will be notified by county election officials of the change in status and invited to contact the officials to be returned to “active” status. If the inactive voter does not contact officials, and if that voter fails to participate in the next two consecutive general elections (four additional years), the voter would be considered unregistered.
“And now that legislation has been passed and signed by the governor,” Pate said, “it’s my office’s responsibility to administer the laws, and as I was just telling Amanda, that one part of that process is we’ll be working with auditors like her to put the policies into a working format on the rules and administrative processes. And then we have the role of educating the public.”