Absentee ballots are arriving in Iowans' mailboxes. What's the most common error voters make when filling them out?
More than 630,000 Iowans have already requested absentee ballots for November's election, outpacing similar numbers from 2016.
“We’ve never had this many this early in the process,” said Dallas County Auditor Julia Helm told the Des Moines Register recently.
With all those voters using the absentee system, voters may be looking for tips on how not to mess up the process. Here are those tips:
What's the most common error?
The number one error voters make on their absentee ballots is failing to sign the outer affidavit envelope that is used to mail the ballot, said Kevin Hall, a spokesperson for the Iowa Secretary of State's office. Failure to do so will cause the ballot to be rejected.
For absentee ballots received by county auditors by 5 p.m. on Oct. 31, the auditor will review the ballot for completeness and contact the voter within 24 hours if there are any issues, Hall said. If the ballot is unsigned, the voter has until 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, the day before the election, to visit the county auditor's office and sign their ballot. Otherwise, Hall said they should plan to go to their polling place and vote on Election Day.
More:Here's what you'll find on your Iowa ballot, plus info about the candidates and their stances
Pay attention to other instructions
Voters should follow the instructions for filling out their ballots and mailing them back. That includes fully darkening the box or oval next to their choice of candidate. To vote for a write-in candidate, Iowans must write the person's name on the line provided AND darken the box or oval next to the write-in line.
Iowans should also place their absentee ballots in the included secrecy envelopes before putting it in the outer envelope and mailing it to their auditor. However, failing to put an absentee ballot in a secrecy envelope does not by itself mean the ballot won't be counted.
If an absentee ballot is opened and does not have a secrecy envelope, Hall said a bipartisan team on the county's Absentee and Special Voter Precinct Board will place the ballot in a secrecy envelope until tabulation begins.
How many ballots get rejected?
Iowa rejected 0.63% of absentee ballots cast in 2016 (about 4,200 votes) and 1.57% of ballots cast in 2018 (about 5,100 votes), according to reports from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Those may seen like small numbers but in the super close contests Iowa may have this year, they could make the difference between a election winner and an election loser.
More:Early voting has begun. Here's what you need to know about absentee ballots and voting early in Iowa
What happens if you lose your absentee ballot or make a mistake?
If an Iowan requests an absentee ballot but makes a mistake in filling it out, or if they request a ballot but it is lost or damaged, the secretary of state's office encourages them to contact their county auditor. Iowa law contains procedures for "spoiling" mailed absentee ballots and obtaining a replacement.
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