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Iowa Supreme Court puts absentee ruling on hold

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court on Tuesday swiftly granted a request from Republican groups to stay a judge’s ruling that blocked enforcement of an order that has been used to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot requests.

The Republican National Committee, President Trump’s campaign and other GOP groups argued in an emergency petition filed Tuesday that Iowa’s election administration could be thrown into “chaos” if the ruling was allowed to stand.

Within hours, Chief Justice Susan Christensen released an order saying the full court had granted their request to put the ruling on hold pending further proceedings. She said the court will consider the merits of the case in the coming days.

At issue is Monday’s ruling by Judge Robert Hanson that would block Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate from enforcing his directive that required counties to mail blank absentee ballot applications to voters instead of ones pre-filled with their personal information.

Pate, a Republican, said his directive was intended to ensure uniformity in how the applications were mailed statewide. But Hanson found that it would harm the public’s interest in making voting by mail as easy as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it appeared to be designed to limit the option.

Based on the directive, courts have invalidated absentee ballot applications that were mailed to more than 200,000 voters in three counties and that contained their identification information.

Court injunctions issued at the request of GOP groups are blocking those counties from processing tens of thousands of applications that were returned. Counties began sending absentee ballots to valid requesters on Monday.

Hanson’s ruling did not dissolve the injunctions, but he suggested that counties could ask the courts to lift them. Doing so could allow the counties to mail absentee ballots to thousands of voters whose pre-filled applications were invalidated, including about 14,000 in Linn County.

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