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Election integrity act

May 14, 2017
Reinbeck Courier

The Election Integrity Act, HF 516, signed by Governor Branstad on May 5, 2017, will make changes to nearly every aspect of elections, including voter registration, Election Day registration, voter identification on Election Day and absentee ballot requests.

The change affecting the most voters in Grundy County will be that on Election Day each voter will now be required to show identification at the polls. For the majority of voters, this will be their driver's license or non-operator identification card issued by the Department of Transportation. The voter may also use the new voter identification card, Election Day registration, or an attester to establish his or her identification. If the voter is unable to establish identification through any of these means on Election Day, the voter may vote provisionally and establish his or her identification following the election.

With regard to voter registration, as the law currently stands, there is no deadline for political parties or nonparty political organizations or candidates to submit voter registration applications accepted by them to the county auditor. The new law provides that all voter registration applications shall be submitted to the county auditor within 7 days of receiving the application. If the political party or candidate accepts a completed voter registration form within 3 days of the voter registration deadline for an election, he or she shall submit the form to the county auditor within 24 hours of accepting the form and not later than the registration deadline.

Currently, people who are at least 17 1/2 years of age but less than 18 years old may register to vote. The county auditor maintains a record of the registration so that it will not take effect until the registrant's 18th birthday, and the registrant will be registered and qualified to vote at any election held on or after that date. Under the new law, a person who is at least 17 years of age may register to vote. If that person will be 18 years old by the General Election in November, he or she may vote in the Primary Election in June. This portion of the law will become effective on January 1, 2019.

Under the current law, there is no consequence regarding voter registration for a person who is on a jury declination list due to non-citizenship or non-residency. One of the changes under the new law will be that those people will now have their voter registration cancelled.

The worry-free postmark date for mailing voter registration applications to the county auditor's office remains at 15 days prior to the election.

As to Election Day registration, the new law adds Veteran's ID cards as a form of identification to establish voter identification and residency. Previously this was not a form of identification that could be used for these purposes.

Under the current law, proof of residency when registering on Election Day must be current, but the law did not define "current." The new law provides that the document proving residency must be dated within 45 days of the election.

If using an attester to register to vote on Election Day, the attester must also show his or her voter identification. Previously the attester was only required to be registered within the precinct.

Specifically for procedures in the county auditor's office, Election Day registrants must now be sent an acknowledgement of their voter registration within 21 days of the election. The deadline is currently within 45 days of the election.

Currently any non-verified Election Day voters are referred to the county attorney and the Secretary of State. The county attorney is now required to review these referrals and report to the county auditor and the Secretary of State.

The forms of identification for Election Day registrants will continue to require a photo ID that is current, valid, and includes an expiration date.

The new law does not change the deadline for pre-registering for an election. We always encourage voters to pre-register if they intend to vote in an election. Once you are registered, you do not have to register again unless you move. The pre-registration deadline remains at 10 or 11 days prior to the election, depending on the type of election involved.

As to voter identification, the Secretary of State will issue a voter identification card to all voters without a driver's license or non-operator identification card. This new identification card will include the voter's name, signature, and identification number. The voter verification number on this card will be a confidential number. This new procedure will take effect upon completion of the rules.

After the law is in effect, all new registered voters without a driver's license or non-operator ID will be issued an identification card by the county auditor. Voter acknowledgements will be sent to newly registered voters with a driver's license.

On Election Day, the voter's date of birth will now be included on the Declaration of Eligibility that each voter signs, and as previously stated, all voters will be required to show identification at the polling place on Election Day. Previously, if a voter moved within the county but to a new precinct, he or she was not required to show proof of identification and residency. Now these will be required for voters moving within the county.

Training for our precinct election officials must now include instruction on the criteria for determining whether a person meets the requirements for establishing identity. As a practical matter, this does not change the procedure for Grundy County, but the instructions will be different based on the changes in the requirements under the law.

As to absentee ballots, the voter verification number will be required on all request forms submitted after January 1, 2018.

At this time, a voter may submit an absentee ballot request form at any time for an election. After January 1, 2018, the requests can only be submitted up to 120 days prior to the election.

Also at this time, a registered voter may apply in person for an absentee ballot at the county auditor's office not more than 70 days prior to the date of the election. After January 1, 2018, that date is expanded to 120 days prior to the date of the election.

Under the current law, a request for an absentee ballot to be mailed to the voter must be received by the county auditor at least 4 days prior to the election. After January 1, 2018, that date is moved back to 10 or 11 days prior to the election, depending on the type of election.

Absentee ballot request forms delivered to the county auditor by political parties or candidates must also be delivered 10 or 11 days prior to the election, depending on the type of election, after January 1, 2018.

After July 1, 2017, the county auditor may reject an absentee ballot request form if it appears that it was signed by someone else. Currently, there is no such provision in the law.

Delivery of absentee ballots to nursing homes is expanded to include some assisted living centers after January 1, 2018. The delivery date to nursing homes is changed to no earlier than 29 days prior to an election under the new law.

Under the current law, absentee voting takes place at the county auditor's office for 40 days prior to an election. After January 1, 2018, that time period is shortened to 29 days.

At this time, absentee ballots are sent to the voters who have requested them as soon as the ballots are ready. After January 1, 2018, the ballots will be sent no earlier than 29 days before the election.

A new provision in the law is that absentee ballot requests will be considered defective if it appears that the request was signed by someone other than the registered voter. This provision will go into effect on July 1, 2017.

Similarly to voter registration, we encourage voters who desire to vote absentee in an election to request their ballot by mail or to vote absentee in our office early in the election cycle. The new law will change that time period to 29 days prior to an election rather than the current 40 days. Inasmuch as the time period to request a ballot by mail is shortened due to the time that the request must be received by the auditor's office, a voter will now be required to request his or her ballot earlier in the process than previously allowed.

These are just some of the changes to election laws by the passage of HF 516, the Election Integrity Act. There are many changes in the new law, and the rules setting out the method to carry out the law have not yet been written. As the rules are written, implementation of the law will become clearer.

If you have any questions regarding elections, feel free to contact Rhonda R. Deters, Grundy County Auditor, 706 G Avenue, Grundy Center, IA 50638, telephone 319-824-3122, email: rdeters@gccourthouse.org.

 
 

 

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