Following local races, voter advocates regroup on Iowa election laws

DES MOINES — Iowa’s new election law will not face its first big test until next year’s midterms , but a statewide political group said this month’s vote for local races showed glimpses of how the changes will hinder participation.

Earlier this month, communities across Iowa held municipal and school board elections. It follows last spring’s adoption of a Republican-led election law that reduces the early voting period in Iowa, while adding restrictions on absentee ballots.

Terese Grant, President of the League of Women Voters of Iowa, said there were no widespread disruptions, but there were reports of voters not aware of the changes, or situations of ballots encountering issues with the cutoff point.

“It’s all made voting a little bit more challenging, a little more harder,” Grant asserted. “And that’s just the opposite of what the League feels that needs to be done where voters have free and easy access to voting.”

She predicted any anecdotal reports will morph into much bigger problems for next year’s statewide election. The League is circulating online petitions, demanding Republican leaders repeal controversial aspects of the law.

When the sweeping bill was passed, supporters argued it provided uniformity in carrying out elections, while restoring faith in the process.

The move coincided with national rhetoric from the far-right that questioned the outcome of the presidential election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.

Grant argued Iowa’s changes are too dramatic for voters, especially when they appeared to embrace these options in 2020, including voting absentee.

“Not allowing people to have the access that they did in past elections is something that we’d like to give them back,” Grant explained.

Last year, more than one million Iowans voted absentee, breaking the previous state record.

Grant added new restrictions on setting up satellite voting remains another top concern going into next year. In addition to calls to repeal the changes, Iowa’s election law also is being challenged in court by civil rights advocates.