Update: Absentee ballot requests to be mailed to every registered voter

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Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (official photo from the SOS website)

The Iowa Democratic Party joined 50 other state Democratic parties in sending a letter to federal and state officials urging swift nationwide action to make voting easier and more accessible without the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

“Americans shouldn’t have to put their health and safety at risk to cast their ballot,” said IDP Chair Mark Smith. “While the COVID-19 pandemic requires Americans to stay home, we need to do everything we can to protect our democratic processes and make sure every vote is counted.”

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was already working to ensure that the June 2 primary elections will go on. He announced March 31 that every registered voter will receive an absentee ballot request in the mail.

“The safety of voters while casting their ballots is our top priority,” Secretary Pate said. “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 forms will be sent in mid-late April and will include prepaid postage for return mailing to county auditors. There are approximately two million active registered voters in the state. Last week, the Secretary of State expanded the mail-in voting period for the June primary to 40 days. Iowans can request absentee ballots now through May 22. County auditors begin mailing ballots on April 23.

Eligible Iowans who have not registered to vote or updated their registration should do so now to ensure the absentee ballot request form goes to the correct address. For the first time, Iowans who are 17 years old and will be 18 by November 3 can vote in the June primary. You can register to vote online or download a printable voter registration form at sos.iowa.gov/registertovote.

“The Auditor’s Office will respond to whatever is necessary to conduct the upcoming June 2, 2020 Primary Election,” Marion County Auditor Jake Grandia said. “The statewide Absentee Ballot Request Form mailing by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office is just one of those steps. We are encouraging everyone possible to participate in the Primary Election from home by utilizing an Absentee Ballot.”

Polling sites will be open for the June 2 primary election, but many will be combined with other precincts. Voters should check with their county auditor before going to the polls. Curbside voting is an option for Iowans with disabilities, those who might have trouble entering a polling place, and Iowans who are in the Center for Disease Control’s at-risk population for COVID-19.

Democrats also requested that community organizations be allowed to collect and deliver voted, sealed ballots. This was not included in Secretary Pate’s actions, but as stated, each ballot will include prepaid postage.

“If left unchanged, our current electoral system poses a severe public health risk that could rapidly accelerate the spread of COVID-19 while disenfranchising countless voters and calling into question the legitimacy of our elections. Just like our healthcare system and our economy, our elections infrastructure will need a massive infusion of resources to ensure that elections can go on and every voter has access to the ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Democrats wrote in their letter.

This story has been updated since its original post.