116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Opinion / Staff Editorials
Iowa’s inactive voter list fits a pattern
Iowa’s secretary of state has mailed notices to more than 565,000 voters who didn’t vote in the 2022 general election that they’re now considered inactive voters. It’s required under legislation approved in 2021 by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Miss one election, and your status changes to inactive. Before the 2021 law was approved, voters were considered inactive if they missed two general elections.
These inactive voters can vote as they normally would through November 2026. But if they don’t vote, their registration will be canceled after the 2026 election.
Republicans argue the accelerated process helps clean up the voter rolls and head off potential fraud. We were skeptical of that argument in 2021 and remain so. There’s been no significant fraud perpetrated in Iowa elections, and certainly not enough justify moving more than a quarter of Iowa’s registered voters to inactive status after missing a single election.
The mailing cost $108,350.22, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The cost will be reimbursed by counties, based on their share of inactive voters.
Though, for now, the change will have no practical effect on the notified voters. But it’s yet another bureaucratic hurdle tossed up by Republicans that could, down the road, jeopardize the voter registration of thousands of Iowans.
Alone, this measure might not warrant much concern. But add it to Republicans’ approval of an tightly abbreviated early voting window, restrictions allowing just one absentee ballot drop box per county, setting the deadline to receive votes on election night, no matter when they’re postmarked, limits on in-person satellite voting and we see a pattern of efforts any of which could ensnare voters.
And remember, the 2021 law is rooted in Donald Trump’s false contention that rampant fraud led to an illegitimate presidential election result, aka the big lie. Numerous red states approved voting restrictions and Iowa joined the parade.
In the 2022 June primary, county auditors in Polk, Linn, Scott and Black Hawk counties reported receiving 461 absentee ballots that didn’t count because they missed the election night deadline. Before 2021, the ballots would have counted. In October 2021, Linn County reported receiving 257 absentee ballot request forms that couldn’t be fulfilled due to missing a new state-imposed deadline.
We have little hope that the Legislature, now even more tightly in the grip of Republicans, will revisit any of these changes. But they should. The goal of election laws should be to make voting easier, not more difficult under the guise of fighting virtually non-existent fraud.
(319) 398-8262; email@example.com
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to firstname.lastname@example.org