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Trump campaign, RNC sue 'rogue' Iowa officials over mail ballots

The officials said they're trying to make it easier for voters to cast a ballot safely.
A man prepares mail in ballot envelopes including an I Voted sticker on July 29, 2020 in Minneapolis.Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune via AP file

President Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican Party announced on Wednesday lawsuits against two Iowa county officials who opted to proactively fill in voters’ absentee ballot applications with identifying information before mailing them to voters.

The state of Iowa is sending out blank absentee ballot applications to voters. But Trump's campaign is objecting to two counties deciding to mail an additional copy of the forms with much of the needed information already completed.

Iowa is a closely-contested swing state critical to Trump's re-election hopes and recent polling shows him barely holding a lead there.

Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Party of Iowa all joined the pair of lawsuits, claiming the “rogue” county auditors are "throwing out important voter integrity safeguards."

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert told a local CBS affiliate last month that they were trying to make it easier for voters to safely cast a ballot by mailing the forms with the voter’s name, address, date of birth and voter ID pin already filled out; voters would be required to sign and send it back to receive their ballots. The two county auditor applications are a separate mailing, the CBS affiliate reported.

Amid the pandemic, states have been forced to fundamentally rethink how voters cast ballots, and litigation like this has surged as advocates, partisans, and states seek to adapt existing laws — and absentee voting systems — to work for most voters. The RNC is involved in approximately 40 lawsuits on election issues, often intervening in areas where Democrats or advocates say the mail voting system is onerous or unfair and likely to disenfranchise voters.

There's no evidence of widespread voter fraud in mail elections, but the lawsuit argues that voter details — like the voter pin on voter ID cards the state began using in 2018 — are an important layer of voter security.

“The responsibility of filling out personal information on absentee ballot applications is a key safeguard to confirm the applicant’s identity and should rest squarely with the voter. The rogue County Auditors must immediately stop their harmful actions that threaten the validity of and confidence in the upcoming election,” RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

State Republicans have spent much of the summer protesting pandemic changes to Iowa's voting laws.

In July, after an advocacy group challenged a law barring county officials from using voter registration records to fill in missing information on absentee ballots request form, the RNC intervened to defend the law, claiming Democrats were trying to "rig" the election.

In Iowa’s June primary, the state mailed all voters absentee ballot applications and some 78 percent of voters who cast a ballot did so by mail. Republicans in the state legislature protested, and sought to bar the Secretary of State from doing the same thing in November. A bipartisan deal was struck, instead requiring the Secretary of State to obtain certain legislators' approval to do so again. Approval was granted in July, and voters will receive the ballot applications.

Linn County is the second most populous county in the state, and includes the city of Cedar Rapids. Johnson County includes the liberal-leaning Iowa City.