A judge in Iowa ordered 50,000 absentee ballot requests to be voided after President Donald Trump’s campaign argued a county elections commissioner acted improperly when he sent the requests out with voter’s personal information already filled out.
Judge Ian Thornhill issued a temporary injunction, The Associated Press reported, which requires Linn County Auditor Joel Miller “to notify voters in writing that the forms should not have been pre-filled with their information and cannot be processed.”
When Miller sent absentee ballot request forms to 140,000 voters in July, personal information – including names, dates of birth, even voter identification numbers – were already filled out. Miller, a Democrat, violated a “clear directive” from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, who said in July that county officials must provide blank absentee ballot request forms to voters, Thornhill ruled.
Miller said he was just trying to make voting easier by having the information already filled out, including the four-digit voter identification numbers that most people don’t know. Republicans argued that having voters fill out their own forms would make absentee voting more secure.
Democrats argue otherwise, claiming that such requirements will “disenfranchise” voters and lead to suppression.
In June, the AP reported, Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law that required voters to fill in their own information instead of allowing auditors to fill in that information ahead of time. If there are any errors on the ballot request, auditors must reach out to voters by email or mail to get the mistakes corrected.
“Miller and elections commissioners in Johnson and Woodbury counties said contacting voters who leave the information blank would have been too burdensome and potentially disenfranchised people, so they mailed forms with that information already filled in. They contended that the law did not block them from doing so,” the AP reported. “Trump’s campaign and state and national Republican Party groups filed lawsuits against the three counties, seeking to invalidate all forms returned in response to the mailings. They warned that any ballots cast in response to the mailings could be challenged later.”
More from the AP:
Thornhill’s ruling, issued after he heard arguments Thursday, is the first so far. Another hearing is set for Friday in Woodbury County, where 14,000 of the absentee ballot requests have been returned. A hearing in the Democratic stronghold of Johnson County, where thousands more have been returned, is planned for next week.
Thornhill, appointed by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in 2009, ruled that the Trump campaign and Republican groups had legal standing to bring the case. He found that they demonstrated a likelihood of being harmed, noting that not all Iowa counties have the money to send out pre-filled absentee ballot requests.
He found that Trump and the GOP would likely prevail on the merits, saying Miller’s decision to populate the forms sent to voters went against Pate’s directive and the intent of the new law.
Thornhill added that Miller’s “words and actions show he was aware of the risk he was taking” and that now steps would have to be taken to rectify Miller’s actions, adding that voters still had time to acquire new request forms.
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