Bill sets 8 pm as Iowa Election Day closing time, makes other balloting changes

DES MOINES — Republicans on an Iowa Senate committee have approved a wide-ranging bill that sets 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m as closing time for voting in all Iowa elections.

Senator Roby Smith, a Republican from Davenport, said county auditors asked for the change. “You have a number of people that are retired that have to be there all day long,” Smith said. “Sometimes they open up the polls or they’re getting reaady at 6 or 6:30 in the morning…and they have to stay there past 9 p.m., sometimes 9:30 and 10 o’clock at night.”

Senator Todd Taylor, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, objects to shortening Election Day voting.

“If the auditors, for example, that nobody but maybe one person votes between the hours 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., I’d personally be against closing the polls early,” Taylor said. “…You disenfranchise one voter, it’s too many.”

The bill approved by the Senate State Government Committee would require all early votes cast by absentee ballot to be in the county auditor’s office by Election Day. Smith, the committee’s chairman, said that meets the goal of uniformity.

“There’s checks and balances that we have in this so that every vote counts, every legal vote counts and not one one more vote counts that’s illegal,” Smith said.

The bill forbids early voting sites on the three public university campuses. It also would require graduating students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iwa to sign a form indicating if they plan to move out of state so their names can be taken off Iowa voter registration rolls. Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque said several provisions in the bill would likely spark lawsuits.

“We’re treating groups of students very differently depending on whether they go to a private or a public school,” Jochum said.

Jochum and the other Democrats on the committee voted against the bill. The measure is now eligible for debate in the full Senate. A bipartisan effort is underway in the Iowa House to address absentee voting. It would require all county auditors to use a Postal Service tracking system to determine if ballots are mailed before Election Day.


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