Students who thought voting was already difficult are out of luck.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, the Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill with a vote of 57-37, with the approval of every Republican representative and every Democrat opposing it. This vote came a day after the bill was passed in the Iowa Senate. This bill was sent to Governor Kim Reynolds desk, where she signed it into law.
This new law, known as Senate File 413, will slash Iowa’s early voting period from 29 days down to 20. It will also close the polls for state elections at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. for federal elections.
For absentee ballots to be counted, they must arrive by at the county auditor’s office by the time the polls close in order to be counted. This law also removes much of the discretion auditors have with running elections, including making it a felony for election officials to not carry out state election laws or violate guidance from the Iowa secretary of state.
Failure to carry out state election laws or any violation of guidance can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
Senate File 413 limits who can return absentee ballots. Prior to the passing of this bill, any designated voter could deliver a ballot on the voter’s behalf. This law now makes that a misdemeanor. Only immediate family or household members such as caregivers and the voter themselves are now allowed to return absentee ballots.
Many county auditors also mailed absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters in their counties to make it easier to vote during the COVID pandemic. This law now prohibits that practice. It now requires auditors to wait for a request form from voters before sending out absentee ballot requests.
The reactions to this bill have been incredibly argumentative. Democrats have criticized Reynolds and Republicans alike for suppressing voters’ voices and making it much more difficult for them to vote. They also criticize the need for shortened voting hours, asking what the point is for such a restriction.
Meanwhile, Republicans claim this bill is designed to target and limit voter fraud, despite extremely limited evidence that voter fraud was ever a problem in Iowa. The Iowa Chair for the Republican Party, Jeff Kaufman defended Reynolds’ signing of the legislation, saying she displayed leadership.