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Judge overturns part of 2017 Iowa election reform

Calls Secretary of State's interpretation erroneous, irrational and illogical.

Posted: Jan 24, 2019 7:06 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa court judge has struck down a portion of a 2017 voting reform law that requires county election officials to call, write or email voters who do not completely fill out an application for an absentee ballot.

The law was written to say county officials must use the best means available to find missing information. When Secretary of State Paul Pate wrote the administrative rules to enact the law, he prohibited election officials from looking up the needed information in their electronic voter registration system. He instead required election officials to contact voters by phone, writing or by email.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa sued last year, saying Pate's rule could lead to voter suppression.

In a ruling Thursday, Judge Karen Romano said Pate's interpretation of the Legislature's language is erroneous, irrational and illogical.

Pate says he will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court and issued the following statement:

"Judge Romano's decision puts the integrity and security of Iowa’s elections at risk, by making it easier to cheat. The purpose of this rule is to ensure that County Auditors obtain information missing from an absentee ballot request form from the source: the requesting voter.”

“The administrative rule formally adopted the definition of “best means available” that has been used by both Democratic and Republican Secretaries of State. This procedure is crucial to the integrity and security of Iowa’s elections because it ensures that absentee ballots are sent at the direction of the voter, and no one else.”

“The people of Iowa have repeatedly shown they overwhelmingly support Voter ID and their elected representatives enacted a law that makes it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. As a result of the judge's decision, absentee voters will no longer be required to provide proof of identity.”

“I intend to appeal Judge Romano's decision to the Iowa Supreme Court."

Additional challenged sections of the law, which require voters to present government-issued identification at polls and shorten the time frame for casting absentee ballots, are scheduled for trial in June.

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