Nov 29, 2021 - Politics

Many Iowans didn't return to vote after absentee ballots rejected

Illustration of a clinch fist shaking at Iowa
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At least 206 people in Iowa's two largest counties didn't return to vote in this month's elections after their absentee ballot requests were rejected for missing the state's new deadline, according to data Axios obtained via public record requests.

  • That includes at least 95 voters in Polk County and 111 in Linn County.

Why it matters: Auditors from both counties said many of them could've had a ballot mailed and their vote counted if the law hadn't shortened the request window this year.

  • Results in several elections were razor-thin, so it's possible the votes could've made a difference in the final outcomes, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said.

State of play: Iowa's early voting is now limited to 20 days (down from 29 days), polls close an hour earlier and ballots can only be returned by an immediate relative, household member or a caregiver.

  • Absentee ballot requests by mail for the Nov. 2 elections had to be submitted by Oct. 18.
  • Just over half of the 193 Polk County voters and 234 in Linn County who missed the absentee request deadline returned to vote in person.

What they're saying: The Republican Party of Iowa argues that this month's voter turnout surpassed the 2019 city-school election, disproving Iowa Democrats' "political spin and fear mongering."

  • Miller — a Democrat running for Iowa Secretary of State — told Axios that more people voted because of intense interest in school elections and efforts from offices like his to help voters navigate the new law.

The bottom line: Hundreds of people who wanted to vote this month didn't make it. And there's likely many more in the state's 97 less populated counties.

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