Iowa House sends governor election law changes
DES MOINES — Republicans in the legislature are sending the governor a bill to change absentee voting rules and set an early voting period for elections that’s nine days shorter. Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, began debate on the bill by saying Iowa’s 2020 election was successful and voter fraud was not an issue in the state.
“It is my view that government should be run like a business,” Kaufmann said. “What do you do when you have a very successful year in business? Do you put it on auto pilot, walk away and hope it replicates itself? No.”
Representative Kristin Sunde, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said the bill is the opposite of good customer service to Iowa voters.
“If we’re trying to be like a business here,” Sunde said, “we should ask ourselves will reducing the hours or the number of days a week we’re open lead to more sales and happier customers?”
Senate Republicans approved the bill Tuesday and House Republicans passed the bill tonight. Over the course of five hours of debate, Democrats like Representative Eric Gjerde of Cedar Rapids accused Republicans of pursuing the plan because of former President Trump’s complaints about the election outcome.
“Vote no on this trumped up, sore loser’s piece of legislation,” he said.
Kaufmann did not mention Trump, but he said there are “tens of thousands of Iowans who emphatically support” the changes.
“The ultimate voter disenfranchisement is any voter not having faith our election system,” he said.
Among the changes Republicans approved: Election Day voting will end at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. and absentee ballots must be inside the county auditor’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Night to be counted. Democrats like Representative Mary Mascher of Iowa City said that means the right to vote depends on the efficiency of the Postal Service for mail-in ballots.
“Because if your ballot comes in after Election Day, even though you voted it properly, it will not count,” Mashcer said. “So much for ‘count all the votes,’ huh?”
Kaufmann said the change provides certainty for when a vote counts.
“You can’t show up to the poll 10 minutes after they close and demand to vote,” Kaufmann said, “so your absentee vote should also be in when the polls close.”
The bill also requires only relatives, guardians or caretakers mail or deliver absentee ballots for elderly or disabled Iowans. Republicans say that prevents so-called “ballot harvesting” by candidates and campaigns. The bill limits the number of drop boxes for absentee ballots to one per county and no longer gives county auditors discretion to set up satellite locations for early, in-person voting.