Staff Editorial

Iowa Senate should drop flawed election bill

Sandra Hudson of Iowa City feeds her ballot into the machine at the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in Iowa City on Nov. 7, 2017. Sites like this one would be banned from participating in satellite early voting under a current legislative proposal. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Sandra Hudson of Iowa City feeds her ballot into the machine at the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in Iowa City on Nov. 7, 2017. Sites like this one would be banned from participating in satellite early voting under a current legislative proposal. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

An election bill that popped up and passed a Republican-controlled Senate committee just ahead of a legislative deadline last week should have never seen the light of day at the Statehouse. Rarely is a single bill so filled with so many bad ideas.

Basically, it’s an election bill that would make it tougher for Iowans to participate in elections.

It would close Iowa’s state election polls an hour earlier, at 8 p.m., likely cutting off ballot access to thousands of working, busy Iowans. It would ban putting satellite early voting kiosks in state-owned buildings, a measure plainly aimed at discouraging voting on state university campuses.

State university students also would be given forms asking about their planned living arrangements after graduation, with those planning to live out of state removed from voter rolls. We’re not sure why this extraordinary step targeting one group of voters is needed given existing residency requirements.

The bill would require county election staff to play detective in attempting to verify signatures on absentee ballots, rejecting ballots they feel don’t match. Ballots signed by voters’ whose signature has changed for myriad reasons might not be counted.

And the bill would allow the secretary of state to “oversee” local election operations for 60 days before and after an election. We’re uncertain why such micromanagement would be needed.

It’s bad legislation, coming on the heels of the continued confusion and legal wrangling spawned by misguided voter ID legislation approved by lawmakers in 2017. Like the previous bill, the current election legislation attacks problems that don’t exist and creates new ones, to the detriment of voters.

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Meanwhile, in the Iowa House, a bipartisan bill remains alive that would require uniformity in county-by-county systems for tracking absentee ballots. The measure is meant to get at real problems uncovered by a close election in House District 55, where 29 mail-in ballots were not counted even though postal bar codes showed they were legally cast.

That’s where the Legislature’s elections focus should be — making sure Iowans’ votes count. The Senate bill should be swiftly scrapped.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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