Absentee Ballot Integrity Questioned

Jan 20, 2017

Voting absentee would get a little more complicated under Secretary of State Paul Pate’s proposed legislation he’s  calling the Election Integrity Act.    

On Thursday, Pate briefed the House State Government Committee on the proposed bill which includes a controversial plan for Voter ID.  

More than 40 percent of voters are voting absentee

In a packed committee room, Pate discussed the identification of both voters who go to the polls, and those who request an absentee ballot.  

“Because more than 40% of voters are voting absentee ballots, I want to ensure the integrity of those ballots,” Pate said.  

Pate explains that when you register to vote, you provide an ID number from a driver’s license or other document.   

Under his proposal you would put that same number on your absentee ballot request.    

“Right now they sign the absentee ballot request,” Pate said.  “We're just adding another line that says put your PIN number or ID number on it.  

The challenge we face right now is people move

“That’s it,” Pate added.

Auditors would also have more authority to intervene if the signatures on the voter registration  and the ballot request don’t match.  

In addition, the proposal would shorten the time before an election to request an absentee ballot.  

Currently, a voter can request an absentee ballot months before an election.

We were hoping today to have the bill before us

Pate says that leaves too much time before the ballot is mailed out.

“The challenge we face right now is people move,” Pate said.  

The proposed legislation would require voters to wait until 120 days before an election to request an absentee ballot.

Democrats on the State Government Committee criticized Pate for presenting his proposed Election Integrity Act  without filing a bill.

“We were hoping today to have the bill before us so we could ask about what it does and about problems and pitfalls,” said Rep. Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City).

Pate wants to require voters to present some form of identification at the polls, although it would not have to be a picture ID.   Anyone without a driver’s license or other government-issued document would receive a free ID in the mail to be used at the polling place.

Critics say the Election Integrity Act is not needed, since voter fraud is rare.

“I have a better chance of getting struck by lightning, twice,” said Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines).

Pate hopes for a soft rollout of the procedures starting with city and school board elections this year.