Ballot debate put to rest, k-12 funding next



District 11, R-Storm Lake

Chairman of the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee

In last week’s newsletter I mentioned that the House was waiting for the committee report on the challenge of the election in House District 55. On Monday of last week, the Iowa House received the majority report of the committee along with a minority report. Monday evening, in floor action, the House took up the majority report.

The majority report recommended that the 29 ballots in question did not meet the requirements of the law and therefore should remain sealed and uncounted. Immediately a motion was made to strike the majority report and place the minority report on the floor. The minority report pointed to what they considered to be flaws in the law that could possibly allow the 29 ballots to be counted, and the debate began. Most of the debate centered on the definition of an “intelligent mail barcode.” The law requires that a mail-in ballot have either a postmark or an intelligent mail barcode that indicates that the ballot was mailed by midnight of the day before the election.

On much of the mail you receive you can see a barcode that is sprayed across the bottom of the envelope. This barcode indicates when and where the envelope was processed, not necessarily when it was mailed and not all mail is coded.  The minority report concluded that this barcode should be adequate, and therefore, the ballots should be opened and counted.

An intelligent mail barcode, as described in election law, appears directly below the address and is applied to the return envelope by the county auditor by way of a subscription with the USPS. The barcode is automatically scanned when the envelope goes through USPS processing, and the date and time are recorded. The barcodes across the bottom of envelopes clearly do not meet the requirement in law. The motion to accept the minority report was defeated and the majority report was accepted.

Across the state there were over 1,000 ballots that were disqualified because they were late or did not have a postmark or an intelligent mail barcode. Ninety-eight counties, including the county where this election was contested, understood the law and acted accordingly. One county counted some late arriving ballots but immediately admitted their error. Counting these 29 ballots would have required the Legislature to treat them differently than 1,000 other contested ballots in 98 other counties. The election certification of the county canvassing board was upheld.

With the election challenge completed, our first item of business is to set Supplemental State Aid for our K-12 schools. Over the last eight years we have increased funding to our K-12 system by $765 million; we have 3,100 more teachers than in 2011 and even though enrollment has grown to 486,000, our student to teacher ratio has continued to improve. House education committees are currently working with Senate committees to put together a package that will address SSA, and transportation costs.  I believe that I will have some solid numbers next week.

Our next forum will be Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. at King’s Pointe in Storm Lake.