News

Processing Late Absentee Ballots in Iowa

About

Return to Election Data Dispatches

The data dispatches will be on hiatus through June 23rd. We will return with Election Tech Tuesday on June 24th.

Processing Late Absentee Ballots in Iowa

Iowa law requires that absentee ballots received after Election Day be postmarked at least one day before Election Day. But the state’s counties discovered that the U.S. Postal Service does not always postmark the business reply mail envelopes in which voters return their ballots. A voter could complete a ballot and mail it on time, but if the envelope is not postmarked, the ballot could be rejected.

In 2013, several county auditors tracked this issue in school board elections. They found that, among absentee ballots received after Election Day:

  • 75 were rejected in Polk County because they had no postmark.
  • 9 were rejected in Johnson County because they had no postmark. Only 18 of 235 mail ballots in the county were postmarked.
  • 21 were rejected in Scott County because they had no postmark. Only 25 of 225 absentee ballots received in the county were postmarked.

The situation concerned election officials.

“Some counties had postmarks on 100 percent of returned ballots in school and city elections, but a lot of us did not,” said Eric Van Lancker, Clinton County auditor and president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors. “That’s a concern. There’s an inconsistency there that could disqualify ballots that should otherwise be counted.”

Follow us on Twitter using #electiondata and get the latest data dispatches, research, and news by subscribing today. 

Tags: Absentee voting