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Judge Tott to decide on Validity of Prepopulated Absentee Ballot Requests; COVID Cases Spike

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Another 12 people with COVID-19 have died in Iowa, and there have been an additional 2,663 confirmed cases, the state reports today.

At 10 a.m. today, the state reported 1,091 total COVID-19-related deaths, an increase of 12 deaths since yesterday, according to the state's Coronavirus.Iowa.gov website. There have been a total of 62,031 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iowa so far.  

The state says changes in the way it reports data have caused spikes in positive data rates. Before the changes, the state was consistently reporting a positivity rate below 10%. Today, the state reported a positivity rate and 14-day rolling average of testing above 10%. 

District 3 Judge Patrick Tott says he hopes to rule later today on request from President Donald Trump and the GOP to invalidate tens of thousands of prepopulated absentee ballot requests sent out by Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill.  

After a hearing yesterday, a Linn County judge ordered about 50,000 prepopulated absentee ballot request forms mailed out by the county auditor be invalidated. The Iowa Secretary of State's office will send absentee request forms to voters in the next few weeks.

This morning, lawyers for the Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill and attorneys for President Donald Trump presented their side of the dispute over absentee voting requests. The president and the GOP say prepopulated ballot requests go against the rules set down by the legislature and Secretary of State Paul Pate in June.

 

Kevin Hamilton, one of the county's attorneys, argued that the auditor did have the authority to send out the ballot request forms. He also said that to require the county to send out 57 thousand new ballot requests would cause undue harm to the voters just months before the general election. 

"Who did everything right, and I would urge your honor in considering what equity demands in this situation to protect the voters, because they are the heart of our democracy, and they are the people who will suffer here. they did nothing wrong." 

 

However, the plaintiff's attorney Alan Ostergan alleged that the auditor Pat Gill did not like the new law governing emergency powers concerning elections, so he decided not to obey it. 

 

"It came to pass that it conflicted with the emergency directive, the order of the secretary of state, and here we are. So it is a curious view of emergency powers that a local official can decide which laws to break when there is a local pandemic. Still, only the secretary of state can decide what to do when a tornado hits Sioux city."

In Linn County, Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill took only a few hours yesterday in granting a temporary injunction against the forms. He said they had been improperly filled out in advance with personal information — including voter identification numbers — by the auditor's office.

Trump has made mail ballots a campaign issue, asserting they open the door to voter fraud. His reelection campaign also has sued Johnson County in Iowa. The Johnson County case is still pending.

Linn County said in a statement the auditor's office would void each absentee request form that was prefilled with voter information. The auditor's office will also mail new request forms and return envelopes to each voter affected by the mid-September ruling.

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