The majority of older Iowans support absentee voting, and many plan on voting absentee this November as the COVID-19 threat persists, according to a new AARP poll.
Conducted with Selzer & Company, AARP Iowa polled over 800 registered Iowa voters age 50 and over between July 6 and 8 about Secretary of State Paul Pate’s actions to expand absentee voting ahead of the primary election in June and their views on threats of voter fraud and coronavirus ahead of the general election.
The data revealed that older Iowa voters broadly approved, 69% to 25%, the actions of Pate before the primary, and support their county auditors, 63% to 31%, sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the county ahead of the general election. Most, 57% to 36%, believe COVID-19 poses a greater threat to the state than that of potential voter fraud from absentee ballots.
“According to this poll, taken by one of the most reliable pollsters in the country, it’s crystal clear older Iowa voters broadly support having the option to vote safely by absentee ballot,” said AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson. “We need to make voting absentee as easy, safe and accessible as we can for older Iowans voting in the upcoming November election.”
Record numbers of over half a million Iowans voted in June’s primaries — 77% of which voted by absentee ballot. Because of COVID-19, Pate had expanded the early voting window to 40 days and sent all registered Iowa voters an absentee ballot request. However, Republican lawmakers soon after moved to block Pate from doing so again, and passed a bill limiting county auditors’ ability to help voters with missing information on their absentee request forms.
“Those actions [by Pate] gave hundreds of thousands of Iowans, including a record number of older voters, an option to vote safely from home, and clearly they did,” Anderson said.
The support for sending the absentee ballots was strong across the entire state in cities (73%), suburbs (66%), towns (57%) and rural (56%) areas.
Ann Selzer, founder of Selzer & Company, said there was a little bit more concern among Republicans about voter fraud, but still, when looking at the overall numbers and where no party voters are, they align more closely with the “way Democrats come down on this issue.”
Eighty-one percent of Iowa voters also support increasing or maintaining access to absentee voting, according to the recent poll. Just 11% said they backed restricting access to absentee ballots.
In terms of how older Iowans were planning on voting in November, 48% currently plan on voting absentee, while 44% intend on voting at their polling place.
“All the way around, there is support for having the choice of having an absentee ballot and making that easier, which is a ballot coming to the home through the mail in a proactive way,” Selzer said. “These data points show comfort with absentee voting, especially now, with the threat from COVID-19.”
The survey also tested favorability ratings for various Iowa elected officials, both statewide and local. Of those tested, Pate was the most popular statewide elected official, with a 58% approval and 10% disapproval. County auditors in general were exceptionally well-regarded, with 70% of Iowans over 50 saying they approved of them.
Both Sen. Joni Ernst and President Donald Trump, however, were underwater on their approval ratings. Ernst had an approval rating of 42%, compared to 53% who disapproved. Trump had a 45% approval rating and 53% disapproval.
by Isabella Murray
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