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Secretary Pate proposes legislation making it easier for overseas military to vote
Paul D. Pate
Secretary of State
State Capitol
Des Moines, IA 50319
Iowa Secretary of State Seal WEBSITE:
Kevin Hall
Communications Director
(515) 725-2942
December 4, 2015

Secretary Pate proposes legislation making it easier for overseas military to vote

OTTUMWA – Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced his plans to remove two obstacles in the election process that currently prevent some ballots cast by military voters from being counted.

The most common reason that military ballots are not counted is that they are not received by the time of the county canvass. Secretary Pate proposes giving our overseas military voters an extra 30 days to request, receive, and return special absentee ballots. Current law enables overseas military and other personnel to request a special write-in ballot 90 days prior to an election. Pate's proposed law change would extend this to 120 days prior to an election.

"We should do everything possible to make sure the people defending our right to choose our elected representatives are also given the opportunity to cast their ballots," Pate said during a meeting with county elections officials in Ottumwa. "Extending the time to 120 days will make it easier for them to do that."

Another reason for not counting military voters' ballots is that the auditor's office doesn't receive an absentee request for Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots, which are made available by the federal government. Secretary Pate also wants to remove this obstacle, which requires elections officials to reject any Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) that is sent in without a prior request for an absentee ballot.

"The current wording in Iowa Code creates a dead end for military ballots," Secretary Pate said. "It forces county auditors to reject ballots that are otherwise complete and valid. We must respect the votes of our military members who often times are in harm's way and fighting for the freedoms we enjoy."

Secretary Pate announced the initiatives during a meeting of the Fifth District Iowa State Association of County Auditors in Ottumwa on Friday.

"We are grateful that the Iowa Secretary of State's Office is reviewing the above measures," said Meghan Kelly of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, a program of the U.S. Department of Defense. "Any opportunity to make the voting process easier for the Uniformed Services, their eligible family members anywhere around the globe and U.S. citizens living overseas is welcomed."

Secretary Pate also proposed creating a more clear definition of "electioneering" at satellite voting centers to extend beyond just Election Day.

"Maintaining the integrity of Iowa's elections is one of my top priorities," Secretary Pate said. "Making sure there are penalties for election misconduct during the early voting period, as well as on Election Day, is one small step in ensuring the integrity of the vote."

Other provisions proposed by Secretary Pate deal with the handling of Safe at Home program participants in the case of contested elections, clarifying school board members terms following a school district reorganization, and clarifying language in Iowa Code in relation to school board elections.