116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowa Republicans on Tuesday berated federal Democrats for engaging in a partisan “power grab” in trying to “ram through” sweeping election law changes they said were the in the purview of states to decide.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate called the proposed election overhaul that stalled in the U.S. Senate a federal overreach that was “irresponsible, unworkable and impossible” in stripping away voter identification requirements and other protections that have bipartisan support. “Many provisions they want to force Iowa already does,” said Pate, a Cedar Rapids Republican who has served as state elections commissioner since 2015.
However, Ross Wilburn, a state representative from Ames who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party, said the "For The People Act" at the federal level had become necessary because Republicans in Iowa and Washington have worked to "add barriers at the ballot box" in hopes they can "rig the system in their favor" rather than be held accountable in future elections for problems they have caused.
"The ‘For the People Act’ strengthens our democracy, gets big money out of our elections and protects the sacred right to vote here in Iowa," Wilburn said in a statement. "Don’t be fooled by the spin, the new law signed by Governor Reynolds is designed to suppress the votes, especially for vulnerable Iowans."
Short of votes to adopt a U.S. House-passed version, U.S. Senate Democrats had accepted changes that would have eliminated provisions dealing with public campaign financing and state voter identification laws but would have preserved other parts expanding early voting, making it easier to vote by mail, designating Election Day as a federal holiday, toughening ethics rules and ending partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. Despite those changes, the effort stalled under Senate filibuster rules.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she opposed the election bill because it showed Democrats were ignoring the needs of families by pushing legislation that put the priority on Washington politicians by attempting to centralize power, politicize the Federal Elections Commission, mandate unlimited ballot harvesting and force taxpayers to fund campaigns. She said her experience as a county commissioner of elections reinforced her trust in state and local officials more than the federal government.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, issued a statement calling the Democrats’ measure more about sending power to Washington than stopping voter suppression.
“Make no mistake: this bill is not about voter rights, and after pushing it for several years, this bill is obviously not in response to the 2020 election, which had the greatest voter turnout in our history,” he said. “This bill would upend our very well-run elections in Iowa and replace them with a new system from Washington. We ought to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. This bill does not achieve that goal.”
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, called the proposed election-law changes "a blatant political move" by Democrats who see that President Joe Biden is "upside down" in the polls to want to "hold onto power" in the 2022 midterm elections.
Earlier this year, the Republican-led Iowa Legislature passed and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed election-law changes that shorten the state's early voting period, shorten the period to request mail-in ballots and bar elections officials from proactively sending ballot request forms to voters, among other provisions. During Tuesday’s conference call, Pate said he and his colleagues are constantly "looking at best practices” for elections, but some voting rights experts, county election officials and Democrats have argued that the changes will make it harder for minority, elderly and disabled voters to cast ballots.
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