July 25, 2014

Secretary of State proposal would let small towns vote all absentee

Iowa cities and towns are gearing up for municipal elections in November and Iowa’s Secretary of State wishes the tiniest towns had more options. Matt Schultz, who is also Iowa’s Commissioner of Elections, has proposed legislation to allow towns with 200 or fewer residents to conduct municipal elections by absentee ballot alone. Schultz says county auditors tell him that keeping a polling place open in a small town has challenges.

“County auditors usually do a very good job of finding pollworkers but sometimes it’s difficult and it does cost money to pay the pollworkers,” Schultz says. “So, the concept is, you wouldn’t have a polling place open and maybe only a few people come and vote in a city of 200 or less.”

Schultz says it would be up to cities to adopt the change and voters could still cast ballots in person at the county auditor’s office, instead of voting by mail. “They may decide, ‘We don’t want to spend our money on having pollworkers and it’s cheaper to do it absentee, so let’s go that route,’” Schultz says. “It gives communities options.”

A bill to allow small towns to do away with polling places for city elections passed the Iowa House by a wide margin two years ago but stalled in the Senate.