Iowa Legislature passed a bill that limits early and absentee voting


In the new Iowa legislation, it is prohibited to teach that Iowa or the United States is systemically racist. 

Mallory Tope

The Iowa House voted to approve a bill just eight days after it was introduced to limit absentee and early voting, yet GOP lawmakers cite it will keep Iowa elections secure and constitutional. 

The bill passed 57-37 and would shorten absentee and early voting, along with criminally penalizing county auditors who do not follow the state law. 

The bill will cut the mail and early voting period down from 29 to 18 days. Absentee ballots will be limited to request 70 days prior to an election. County auditors will also be prevented from sending out ballot request forms unless requested by the voter. 

As it now waits at the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said this bill is ‘voter suppression.’  

“This is one of a number of efforts going on in a lot of different states across the country to make it harder for people to vote,” Quirmbach said. 

Just four years ago, the Iowa Republicans were able to shorten the early voting from 40 days to 29 days. 

“This bill will make it more difficult to vote early by compressing the early voting down to two weeks rather than four weeks,” said Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.

The Senate debated its version of this bill Tuesday and passed Senate File 413 with a vote of 30-18. 

Quirmbach said with less than a week from introduction to passage, he would not call this a carefully considered bill. 

“They want to ram this thing through before people really figure out what’s going on,” Quirmbach said. 

Concern has arisen on the effects this bill will have on college students, the elderly, disabled and military serving overseas. 

Iowa saw a record high turnout rate for the 2020 elections and record amount of absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Iowa Secretary of State website.

“After both record turnouts and a safe, secure election in 2020, this bill will make it more difficult for Iowans to vote,” said District 45 Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell in a news release. 

Iowa State University also had record high voter turnout in recent years, which Kedrowski attributes to early voting on campus. 

“College students don’t always have a lot of time; sometimes, they work or have a big test or whatever, they can’t always go on Election Day and take the time that it takes to vote,” said Rajdeep Oberoi, a senior in management information systems and Iowa State College Democrats political director. 

Kedrowski said most college students don’t have any experience in voting, so making it harder to vote will impact first-time voters. 

Wessel-Kroeschell voiced her concern in her news release that Republicans are taking away voter’s right to keep them accountable.

“There is nothing more fundamental to democracy than voting,” Quirmbach said. “The Republicans are just afraid of democracy, they don’t want young people to vote because they have lost the vote population.” 

Iowa Republicans who support the bill said they want to ensure that Iowa elections are secure and constitutional. 

Ryan Hurley, a junior majoring in marketing and president of Iowa State College Republicans, said he thinks this bill is a good first step but believes the Iowa House and Senate should go further to ensure fair elections. 

“Mail-in ballots should only be sent out to our military; you have the physical location and time to go vote on Election Day,” Hurley said. “Election Day should be the day you vote, not 45 days before.” 

After multiple lawsuits and investigations over voter fraud across the nation, Iowa Republican lawmakers are looking to further secure Iowa elections. 

“Voting by mail and absentee voting were both completely secure, especially in Iowa,” Oberoi said. “The fact Iowa Senate and Iowa House Republicans want to make it harder to vote for no reason is pretty blatantly an attempt at voter suppression.” 

This bill would also ban anyone other than the individual voter from returning an absentee ballot. 

Due to the increased amount of absentee ballots during the 2020 elections, there were multiple ways for voters to turn in their absentee ballots. Voters were able to mail, drop their ballots off at a dropbox or the county auditor’s office. There were also individuals and organizations that picked up absentee ballots and took them to the county auditor’s office. 

“I think this will just make it so much harder on county auditors and county employees who have to process these ballots,” Oberoi said. 

County auditors would also not be able to send absentee ballots to request forms to eligible voters. Voters would have to request ballots themselves either online or in person. 

This comes after the Iowa Supreme Court sided with the Iowa GOP about pre-filled out absentee ballot request forms. 

“Not allowing county auditors to send out pre-filled absentee requests and voter registration forms is going to suppress voter turnout,” Kedrowski said. “There will be a lot more responsibility on the individual voter to request the form and fill out correctly.”