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All Eyes on Iowa Governor Over Elections Bill

February 26, 2021 by TWN Staff
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

DES MOINES, Iowa – Residents of Iowa will have to wait until next week to learn if dramatic changes are going to be made to how they participate in future elections. 

Earlier this week, both houses of the State Legislature voted along party lines with their Republican majorities to reduce the time polls are open on Election Day and limit the period set aside for early voting. 

The bill is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has indicated in the past that she supports the legislation. 

The looming question is just why Iowa Republicans are so intent on imposing the new limits. In 2020, Iowa had the third-highest turnout rate among eligible voters, according to the United States Election Project, coming in behind only Maine and Minnesota. And most of those votes appeared to benefit Republicans. 

Former President Donald Trump won the state by 8.2 percentage points, while Sen. Joni Ernst, who was considered highly vulnerable last year, won her bid for re-election by 6.6%. 

The bill before Gov. Reynolds would shorten the early voting period from 29 days to 20 days and close polls on Election Day at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. It would also require all absentee ballots to arrive before polls close, while current law allows any ballots postmarked before Election Day to later be counted. 

It would also shorten deadlines for absentee ballot requests and voter pre-registration to 15 days before Election Day and create felony charges for county auditors who don’t follow election guidance from the Iowa Secretary of State. 

Most Republicans, including Reynolds, have consistently maintained there was no evidence of election fraud in the 2020 election and explain the proposed changes as a way to “enhance and improve” Iowa’s elections. 

Others, like state Sen. Jim Carlin, a Sioux City Republican, said they support the measure because they have concerns about the election integrity in other states and want further guardrails in place for their own. 

But Democrats in the state said the changes smack of nothing but voter suppression. 

Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Democratic state Rep. Sharon Steckman questioned the whole exercise.  

“We had no fraud. We had a record turnout. People were happy with the way they got to vote absentee — a million people. And you better believe some of those people were Republicans, because you won,” she said. 

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