Iowa GOP sends wrong message for absentee voting

Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Iowa saw a record turnout of voters for the June 2 Primary Election. Chances are, most of you who are reading this voted in the primary.

     The Secretary of State’s Office reports that 24 percent of Iowa’s registered voter population took part in the primary. Over 530,000 ballots were cast (420,000 were absentees), breaking the previous record set in 1994 with over 449,000 ballots.

     Jones County also set a record with almost 4,000 ballots.

     With so many records being broken across the state in any election, I’d say that’s a good thing. We want to see registered voters exercising their right to vote. Unfortunately, Iowa’s Senate Republicans don’t see the positive here.

     So much so that they chose to slap Secretary of State Paul Pate’s hand because he initiated a mass mailing to all registered voters. Iowa’s GOP now wants to prohibit Pate’s office from conducting a mass mailing ever again. Pate’s office sent out absentee ballot request forms, which definitely contributed to the overwhelming success of the June 2 primary. Pate was anticipating doing the same come the November Presidential Election. (No one can foresee the future. We may still be in a public health crisis in November, or experiencing a second wave of COVID-19.)

     Yes, you heard that right. The Republican Senate is mad at the Republican Secretary of State. And Republican and Democratic county auditors all over the state, which make up the bi-partisan Association of County Auditors, are also dumbfounded by the GOP’s decision to do away with absentee ballot request forms from here on out. Voter suppression at its finest!

     Pate’s office initiated absentee ballot forms because Iowa was in the midst of a pandemic during the election. This measure was for the protection of voters and poll workers. Because of the huge increase in absentee voting, very few people physically showed up at the polls on Election Day. Pate was trying to stand up for Iowa’s voters and their right to make their voices heard. While the primary could not have been cancelled or postponed, the mass mailing was the only alternative.

     This year’s primary was the only time I have ever voted by absentee. I prefer exercising my right to vote in-person. But for public safety reasons, I filled out my ballot and mailed it in. Had I not heard of Pate’s initiative or had I not received the form in the mail, I likely would not have thought to vote absentee at all. Many people obviously felt the same way.

     The Senate Republicans are making it harder for Iowans to vote, especially during a pandemic. So, again, I say, “Voter suppression.”

     Voter suppression is used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging groups of people from voting. Here’s a scenario: Let’s say Iowa is still practicing public safety measures in November because of COVID-19, meaning social distancing, encouraging face masks, limiting the frequency at which the public congregates. On Nov. 3, thanks to the GOP we won’t receive a reminder to apply for an absentee ballot, so more people will be showing up to the polls to vote. Yes, that’s a good thing, but half or more will likely not be wearing masks. (I witnessed several on June 2 who weren’t wearing masks.) County auditors will see their election budgets skyrocket again, like they did this time around, because they’ll need to purchase PPE for all of their poll workers. Voters who are of the susceptible population will feel as though they have to go out in public to vote, putting them at even more risk of getting coronavirus. Or, perhaps those at-risk people won’t even vote at all. Here is where voter suppression comes into play…

     After the success of Iowa’s primary, national news channels took to the airwaves to praise our state. We didn’t decrease the number of precincts, causing voters to stand in line for hours like they did in Georgia. We didn’t cancel the primary. We just allowed voters to safely vote during a worldwide pandemic.

     While the President speaks out against absentee voting, the Iowa GOP has now jumped on board sharing the same wrong message. Something to keep in mind come Election Day in November…


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