- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers have been unable to change a state law on postmarked absentee ballots that may accidentally void some valid ballots.

Election officials say some valid ballots over the years could have been invalidated because the Postal Service doesn’t always postmark business reply mail envelopes, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/Q6Vtv7 ). Voters return completed absentee ballots in those envelopes.

State law requires that absentee ballots received after Election Day must be stamped with a postmark from the day before Election Day or earlier. The law has been in effect for years. But an accompanying administrative rule that allowed election officials to open ballots received after Election Day without a postmark and check the date on the enclosed voter affidavit was repealed in 2011.

Now, any ballot received after Election Day without a postmark is tossed out. Data collected in local elections from 2011 and 2013 show the issue is widespread throughout the state, the newspaper reported.

“It wasn’t really the voter’s fault that caused his or her ballot to be rejected,” said Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, who has been researching the issue. “That disturbs me and others that I worked with on this.”

Legislators this session have failed to find a solution to the problem. Although election officials coordinated with the Postal Service in 2012 to avoid extensive absentee disqualifications, it’s unclear how it will be handled this year on high-profile statewide contests, including the race for governor and a U.S. senator.

“We just can’t depend on the Postal Service to assure that your vote counts,” said state Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport. “To place an individual’s right to vote on a system that’s not under our control is a dangerous precedent to set.”

In the meantime, officials are asking voters to return their ballots early.

“My advice to everybody who wants to vote by absentee ballot is to not procrastinate,” said state Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo. “Procrastinating could possibly mean your vote won’t be counted.”


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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