116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - A sweeping proposal to limit early and absentee voting in Iowa - among myriad other changes in how elections are conducted here - is on its way to Gov. Kim Reynolds after gaining final approval Wednesday by Republican lawmakers.
The proposal sped through the legislative process over just eight days, and only with Republican support.
Democrats lambasted the bill as voter suppression - a solution in search of a problem.
'Iowa has clean, fair elections. This bill is based on lies and makes it harder for Iowans to vote. We should be making it easier for Iowans to vote,” Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, said during the debate that lasted more than five hours, most of which featured Democrats speaking against the bill.
Republicans say the wide-ranging legislation will make Iowa's elections more secure and consistent statewide, and will reduce campaigns' contact with voters.
'It is going to remain really easy to vote after this legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said during the Iowa House debate. 'This bill does not suppress one single vote.”
It passed the Iowa House on a 57-37 party-line vote.
The Republican governor has not said whether she will sign the bill into law, but did say she is open to reducing the state's early voting period. Reynolds is scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday.
Among many other things, the bill would reduce Iowa's early voting period, constrain early voting programs like satellite voting locations and drop boxes, require absentee ballots to be received by Election Day even if they are postmarked in time, close the polls on Election Day an hour earlier and punish county election officials who violate state election laws with fines and possibly prison time.
The proposed changes come after a record-setting turnout last November in Iowa, which was boosted by early and absentee voting in the midst of the pandemic.
In that general election, Iowa set state records for the most votes cast overall (more than 1.7 million) and the most early votes cast (more than 1 million).
Iowa's turnout rate of 76 percent was among the highest in the country. And the election was secure: No cases of election fraud were reported.
The proposed legislation would limit or ban many of the programs that contributed to that record turnout.
While both major political parties over the past decade have increased their use of early voting, data shows historically more Democrats than Republicans vote early.
'I am weary of this bill, I am frustrated by this bill, and I am angry at this bill,” Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said during House debate.
Sen. Jim Carlin, a Sioux City Republican who has announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, said the legislation also is needed to ensure voters' confidence in elections and repeated the widely debunked claim that widespread fraud led to Democratic President Joe Biden's 2020 victory over Republican former President Donald Trump.
During a public hearing on Senate File 413 held Monday, 19 Iowans spoke in opposition to the proposal and nine who spoke in favor of it. In online comments on the legislative website, opposition was even more lopsided: Roughly 30 wrote comments in support of the bill vs. more than 1,200 who wrote in opposition.
The Iowa Senate approved the bill Tuesday on a 30-18 party-line vote.
If Reynolds approves, the legislation could be signed into law by this weekend, just more than a week after it was first made public.
Here's what the bill would do
Among other things, SF 413 would:
' Move the close of polls on Election Day from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m.
' Change a voter's registration status to inactive after a voter misses one election.
' Reduce the number of days to vote early from 29 to 20.
' Reduce the number of days before an election that absentee ballots can be mailed to voters from 29 to 20, with limited exceptions.
' Make it more difficult for county auditors to establish satellite early voting locations.
' Limit the number of drop boxes for early ballots to one per county. The drop box must be outside the county auditor's office.
' Prohibit county auditors from mailing absentee ballot request forms until a voter requests the form.
' Reduce the earliest time a voter can request an absentee ballot from 120 days before the election to 70 days.
' Require voters to return their own absentee ballot, with limited exceptions.
' Require that an absentee ballot must arrive to the county auditor's office by the close of polls on Election Day, with limited exceptions. Any absentee ballot that arrives after the close of polls, regardless of when it was mailed, will not be counted.
' Make it a Class D felony when county auditors violate state election laws.