Just to be clear: Ballot dropbox on county property legal

Voting in the 2020 general election. Third such column in the past two months.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate cleared up a confusing situation last week: Iowa county auditors may legally install a ballot dropbox on the courthouse grounds to receive absentee ballots from county residents.

A few weeks earlier, a news story made the rounds that dropboxes are not allowed in Iowa. Pate cleared that one up. 

It turns out that dropboxes on county property are legal after all. It’s dropboxes at offsites, like grocery stores, shopping malls, etc., that are illegal.

So the dropbox just outside the east entrance to the Greene County courthouse in Jefferson is a legal repository for an absentee ballot. It’s the only ballot dropbox in the county. 

Of course, you may also fill out your absentee ballot in the courthouse itself. Deputy Auditor Billie Hoskins will be in the former drain clerk’s office on the first floor for that purpose. Or you may mail it in.

If you would prefer to vote absentee this year because you are leery of going in person to your precinct voting location on Election Day (Nov. 3) due to COVID-19, or for any other reason, you have plenty of time to file an absentee ballot request.

Greene County Auditor Jane Heun’s office a few weeks ago had The Bee insert an absentee ballot request form into that week’s edition. It went to every household in the county. 

If you didn’t notice the insert in your Bee, no problem. You probably received one in the mail from Pate, who reportedly is sending the request form to the home of every registered voter in the state. If yours hasn’t come yet, watch for it in the mail.

Some political organizations have also sent the form to their party’s voters.

But if somehow you were passed over by all those mailings, or if you have thrown them away, you can get one from the county auditor’s office. (The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 24.)

The absentee ballot request form is not the actual ballot, of course. 

Ballots themselves will be mailed by the county auditor on Oct. 5 to those who have filed the request form. (Iowa law says absentee ballots must be available to voters no more than 29 days prior to election day. That makes Oct. 5 the earliest date for absentee voting.)

OK so far?

Then let’s go to the suggestion President Trump proposed in North Carolina.

He told his supporters that they could check on the validity of mail-in voting (which he opposes) by obtaining an absentee ballot, mailing it in, then going to their precinct voting location on Election Day and trying to vote again. If they’re allowed to vote both times, that would prove mail-in voting is fraudulent.

Of course, it would also be illegal, and would give him more votes.

But setting those factors aside for now, what would happen in Greene County if someone tried that?

Heun says such an attempt would fail.

Poll workers at each precinct voting location in Greene County will have the list of voters who have requested absentee ballots. If a voter shows up at an Election Day voting location who is also on the absentee ballot request list, the poll workers will call the county auditor’s office to see if the absentee ballot has been returned to the auditor.

If it has, then the voter will not be allowed to vote at the polling place. If it hasn’t, the county auditor will void the absentee ballot request form.

Either way, the voter will be allowed to vote only once. 

The number of double-voting attempts over the years in Greene County is ridiculously small, and if there actually were any, they were no doubt simply forgetful mistakes on the part of the voter. 

But you never know. Consequently, the county auditor’s office is prepared if anything suspicious surfaces on Election Day. 

Nor should there be much of a delay in reporting Greene County election returns. Tabulation of absentee ballot results begins in the auditor’s office when it opens in the morning on Election Day. Those results are not announced until the polls close at 9 p.m., but the absentee counting will be done by then.

I certainly can’t vouch for what will happen in the 2020 election across the nation. But I’m pretty sure Greene County’s balloting will come off just fine.

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Jefferson, IA 50129

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