Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Absentees May Get A Bit Easier

Absentees May Get A Bit Easier

The process of getting an absentee ballot may get slightly less bureaucratic this fall, if a bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly Monday makes its way past the House and Governor Culver.

Senate File 2089 by Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, would roll back a 2004 change that required auditors to accept absentee requests only if they were on one specific statewide form. "I am just trying to restore the prior practice, which as far as I know was never a problem, said Quirmbach." With the change, any signed request on paper could be accepted as long as contained the required information: name, residence address, birthdate, and signature, plus a separate mailing address if needed and a party affiliation for primaries.

Under present law, voters who think a handwritten letter is sufficient now face delays as they wait for or look for a form.

Quirmbach said the change could help service personnel. "How tragically ironic if somebody risking his life to serve our country were denied its most basic right because he didn't use the proper bureaucratic form," he told Iowa Independent.

The initial catalyst was a Story County constituent who was hospitalized just before the 2006 general election. "His wife, who did not have internet access, had some difficulty getting her husband an absentee ballot," said Quirmbach. "That was ironic because she had previously been an employee at the Story County Auditor's office and knew what information had to be included. She was also aware that the law before 2004 allowed a letter request but apparently was not aware that the code had been changed." Quirmbach said despite the difficulties, the hospitalized man was able to vote.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, raised the spectre of requests on envelopes, matchbooks and napkins. But Republican amendments specifically excluding those items and requiring use of an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper lost on party lines.

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