May 10, 2021 - Politics

Iowa voters wrongly listed as inactive under new state law

Illustration of a large shoe about to step on a tiny voting booth. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Polk County’s auditor failed to give Korolina Ogle credit for voting in November’s election, according to information Axios confirmed with the Iowa Secretary of State.

  • The mistake resulted in Ogle receiving a "no activity notice" last month, the first step toward cancelling her voter registration under a law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in March.

Why it matters: 294,147 other voters in Iowa — roughly 13% of the state's registered voters — received similar notices last month.

  • Critics contend that many inactivity notices are like Ogle’s and based on erroneous data or flawed methodology.

What's happening: The new law requires the secretary of state to move voters who didn’t cast ballots in the most recent general election to "inactive" status. Previously, it required not voting in two consecutive general elections.

  • Voter registrations will be canceled after four more years of inactivity.
  • County auditors have the sole responsibility of entering the information, Molly Widen, an attorney for the secretary of state told Jason.
  • Zoom in: Ogle was issued an absentee ballot, but instead voted in person. That was not tracked in a state voter system known as I-VOTERS.

Be smart: Iowa’s new law is part of a nationwide push by Republicans in dozens of states.

Between the lines: Some believe the no-activity notices may have unintended consequences beyond simple filing mistakes.

  • As many as 121 "unverified citizens" could potentially vote in Linn County because of the notices, auditor Joel Miller said in an April 30 notice.
  • Canceled registrations of 492 deceased voters were erroneously changed by the state’s vendor, Arikkan. The state fixed that error, the secretary of state told the AP.
  • At least 400 notices were sent to 17-year-olds who could not yet vote in 2020. That group may be excluded from future notices.

The other side: Polk County auditor Jamie Fitzgerald did not respond to multiple requests for comment that Jason made over the past two weeks.

  • Fitzgerald could be fined up to $10,000 for technical infractions under the new law.

How it ended: Ogle responded to a mailing from the secretary of state, and her voter registration was made active again.

  • She wants to know how widespread her situation is — and whether counties will reconcile voter records for others like herself.

Editor's note: An earlier version listed an incorrect name for Polk County auditor Jamie Fitzgerald.


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