County auditors react to news about “illegal” drop boxes for absentee ballots

County auditors across eastern Iowa disagree with the Secretary of State's interpretation of the law.
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 8:22 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - This is the next fight on absentee ballots in Iowa: drop boxes. Iowa’s Secretary of State says those are illegal.

In a statement to TV9, a spokesperson with the Secretary of State’s Office said the issue arose because of complaints about one county auditor placing unsecured and unsupervised ballot drop boxes next to trash cans at a grocery store.

County auditors said they are surprised by the news. Many of them don’t agree with the Secretary of State’s interpretation of the law.

About 39 Iowa counties already use drop boxes and have for years since it can give voters an easy way to turn in a ballot without having to come down to the auditor’s office. It is also a way to avoid concerns about delays with the postal service.

Eric Van Lancker, Clinton County Auditor, said Iowa Code does not even mention drop boxes.

He said the state should be considering what is best for voters when interpreting the law.

“We should be doing what the voters find convenient for them to vote, especially in this time of pandemic,” he said. “We were able to temporarily change a lot of our election rules for the primary because of the pandemic and I think we are still in that situation where people are scared and feel a little weary and I think we need to consider what works for them because we need them to vote and we need to be able to count their votes.”

Janine Sulzner, Jones County Auditor, said their drop box was also very popular during the primaries.

“We have one drop box here at the courthouse,” she said. “Our drop box is under 24/7 video surveillance.”

The Secretary of State’s spokesperson said they will be offering auditors additional guidance on ways to accomplish a secure, no-contact ballot delivery system at their office building within the next few days.

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