In response to new absentee voting restrictions, Iowa’s League of United Latin American Citizens partnered with the progressive organization Majority Forward in filing a lawsuit to overturn the rules.
LULAC and Majority Forward filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Johnson County District Court and seek to reverse the new law ahead of Election Day Nov. 3.
House File 2643, an appropriations bill, was amended during the 2020 legislative session to require county auditors to directly contact voters — first by telephone and email and then by mail — if there is an issue with their absentee ballot request form, rather than use information on-hand about the voter to correct any mistakes, as is current practice. The bill also requires Iowans to show ID before voting early at a county auditor’s office or local courthouse.
Reynolds signed the budget bill into law June 30 without removing the provisions related to voting.
The lawsuit takes issue with the portion of the law requiring elections officials to contact voters who leave a field blank or incorrect on their absentee ballot request form rather than using the county’s voter registration system to fill in the information themselves.
“HF 2643 will abridge the right to vote and prevent qualified voters from participating in Iowa elections by making it more difficult to cast absentee ballots,” the lawsuit states. “But it also makes the process more confusing and uncertain, especially for the high number of voters who are voting absentee for the first time this election.
“Voters who are notified too late or not at all will be effectively denied the right to vote safely in the November General. Some will be forced to choose between their health or their right to vote, as voting in person will be their only remaining option. Others who cannot vote in person for a variety of reasons, including their schedules, disabilities, temporary absence from the State, or fears for their health or the health of their loved ones, will not be able to vote at all.”
A record 531,131 Iowans voted — 77% of whom voted absentee — during the June 2 primary at a time when people were encouraged to cast their ballot remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Common mistakes on an absentee ballot request form include misstating the numbers on a home address and writing down the last four digits of a Social Security number rather than a voter’s PIN, which comes with a voter ID card.
“LULAC will not sit idle as fundamental rights of Iowans are trampled. That is why we are challenging this law,” said Jazmin Newton-Butt, president of Davenport’s LULAC chapter.
Nicholas Salazar, LULAC state director, said today’s lawsuit “is the start of our civic engagement campaign for 2020.”
“Obviously, we are in the midst of a pandemic. A lot of the folks in Iowa are going to prefer to vote absentee,” Salazar said. “So we want to make sure that this process on the back end is protected, and that voters don’t have to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and getting sick, or staying home and not voting. And that is what we are fighting for heading into the 2020 November general election.”
J.B. Poersch, president of Majority Forward, called the law “burdensome” and “politically-motivated.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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