Contested House Race Resolved
This week we debated whether to count 29 ballots in the election race for House District 55. It came down to what the law says. In order for the ballots to be counted, an absentee ballot must have a traditional postmark or an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb). The ballots received by the Winneshiek County Auditor’s office contained neither. The IMb is generated within the Auditor’s office and is placed on the absentee ballot prior to it mailed to the voter. There is a charge by the postal service to have the IMb added to the ballot. Only 7 of 99 counties adopted the IMb tracing program and were able to count late-arriving absentee ballots that did not contain a postmark.
- Winneshiek County did not opt in nor did they purchase the service
- Jones County was one of the 7 counties that did pay to add the IMb. Had these ballots been cast in Jones County and mailed before the election, they would have been counted. I commend our Auditor Janine Sulzner for taking the extra steps to insure the integrity of the elections.
In 2016, the Intelligent Mail barcode language was added to House File 2273 in amendment S-5128, and was proposed by Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls). In his floor remarks, Sen. Danielson referred specifically to the IMb Tracing program offered by the United State Postal Service:
“If an individual auditor would like to purchase this service from the postal office, barcodes will be provided and put on the return envelope for every absentee ballot”
I remember the discussion distinctly because I floor managed the bill through the legislative process in the House. The rules cannot be changed after the fact because one party did not like the legal and certified result. Based upon information received from the Secretary of State’s Office, there were 1,027 late-arriving ballots that were rejected across the state because they lacked a postmark or IMb. If these 29 late-arriving ballots were to be counted, we would be treating them differently than other late-arriving ballots.
If legislative action is needed to update Iowa Code regarding late-arriving absentee ballots, which is possible, but cannot retroactively change this situation. I do believe we need to review process and make changes so that this doesn’t occur in the future.