Johnson County District Court judge rules in favor of Trump campaign, invalidating thousands of ballot-request forms

A Johnson County District Court judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign and national Republican Campaign Committee, after Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert mailed out ballot-request forms with pre-filled information.

Photo+via+KGAN

Photo via KGAN

Lauren White, Politics Reporter


A judge in the Johnson County District Court ruled Monday in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, invalidating thousands of ballot-request forms mailed to voters with pre-filled information.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert must contact every person who mailed in a ballot-request form with pre-filled information and tell them their form is no longer valid. Voters can send in a new ballot-request form on a blank, standard form.

The Trump campaign filed the lawsuit because Weipert mailed out forms with voters’ pre-filled information, despite an order by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate saying auditors must send out ballot-request forms that are blank, except for the election date and type. 

Weipert told The Daily Iowan on Sept. 7 that he mailed out the pre-filled forms because he wanted the auditor’s office to preemptively correct any incorrect or ineligible information, because many voters often fail to provide the proper information.

Now, about 15,000 ballot-request forms returned to the Johnson County Auditor’s office will be invalidated.

The Johnson County District Court held a hearing for the case on Sep. 9, but the judge didn’t make a ruling during the hearing.

The Trump campaign and national Republican Campaign Committee said that the forms jeopardized important security measures that protect voters, such as sending out a postcard in advance to the voter’s address to make sure they’ve updated the address on their voter registration. 

Otherwise, the pre-filled form may not be delivered to a voter’s most recent address.

“Plaintiffs [Trump campaign] further allege Defendant [Travis Weipert]  has willfully circumvented a key election-security measure designed to ensure that the person who submits an ABR form is who he or she claims to be, and Defendant’s actions threaten to disenfranchise his own constituents and dilute the votes of Iowans who live outside Johnson County,” the court ruling says. 

The ruling also said Weipert was in violation of an amendment to the Iowa Code passed by the Legislature this year that prohibits auditors from using a voter registration database to fill out missing information on returned absentee ballot requests. The court ruled that the statute also prohibits filling out that information in advance.

6th District Court Judge Ian Thornhill, who heard the case, also said that many counties would not have the technology to offer pre-filled ballots and so it would not be justified for only certain counties to send them out. 

The Trump campaign also filed lawsuits in Linn and Woodbury Counties after the county auditor’s mailed voters ballot-request forms with pre-filled information.

Judges ruled in favor of the Trump campaign in both Linn and Woodbury Counties as well.

The same judge presided over the Johnson County and Linn County cases, and the judge acknowledged that some of the conclusions of this case would be identical to those of the Linn County case. 

About 65,000 ballot-request forms were nullified in Linn and Woodbury Counties.

“With respect to this case, the Iowa Secretary of State, with the authority of the legislature, has specifically ordered county auditors to distribute only blank absentee ballot request forms, which the Court finds to be appropriate, pursuant to the authority granted to the Secretary of State …  and the Iowa Legislative Council’s July 17, 2020 approval,” the court filing said.

 

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