Election 2020

Judge Rules 50,000 Iowa Absentee Ballot Applications Invalid

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

A state judge has invalidated more than 50,000 absentee ballot application forms sent to voters in Linn County, Iowa, the second-largest county in the state.

The county auditor’s office almost completely filled out the ballot applications, despite the secretary of state’s directions that only the election date be included. The auditor’s actions may have also been against a state law that forbids government workers from filling out the forms.

Judge Ian Thornhill agreed with the Trump campaign, which had sued the county over the ballot applications.


 The judge sided with the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, which filed a lawsuit this month seeking to discard the absentee ballot request forms. The Trump campaign argued the forms should have been blank except for the election date and type, per the Iowa secretary of state’s directions. Local officials in Linn County, which is home to Cedar Rapids, ignored those directions and sent out the applications with more information anyway.

“It is implausible to conclude that near total completion of an absentee ballot application by the auditor is authorized under Iowa law where the legislature has specifically forbidden government officials from partially completing the same document,” Judge Ian Thornhill wrote in a Thursday ruling.

“Not every county can afford the prepopulated request forms,” the judge also noted.

The county had mailed out 140,000 ballot request forms that had been mostly filled out. They got back 50,000. But now, the county is going to have to invalidate those ballots that were returned and send out new ones.

Judge Thornhill tried to point out the risk of voter fraud.

“Because the defendant sent the ABR [absentee ballot request] forms to voters with the required security information pre-populated, there is no assurance that the ABR forms returned to his office were actually sent by the voter listed on the ABR,” the Trump campaign wrote in its lawsuit. “If the defendant mails absentee ballots in response to the prepopulated ABR forms, any of those absentee ballots that are cast would be subject to challenge and may not be counted in the 2020 general election.”

It’s an open question whether the county can meet its own self-imposed deadlines for mailing ballot applications.


New absentee ballot request forms and return envelope will be mailed to each impacted voter in mid-September. In addition, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office will be sending separate absentee ballot request forms to all voters in the next few weeks. Voters may also access a new request form by clicking here.

Absentee ballot request forms from other organizations will continue to be considered valid, unless the application lacked any required information.  The Auditor’s Office will notify voters of incomplete applications. Voters only need to submit one request form. If you do submit multiple forms, you will still only receive one ballot.

I’m sure the Linn County auditor was just trying to be helpful in filling out applications for voters. But he was also making fraud ridiculously easy. The worry is how many other counties in the nation are trying to be helpful and filling out ballot application forms.

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