Senate approves bill to change Iowa’s election laws

Senate File 413, a bill that would change Iowa’s absentee ballot rules and penalize county auditors who ignore state election rules, passed the Senate with a vote of 30-18. It’s companion bill will be debated in the House on Wednesday.


Ryan Adams for the Daily Iowan

Members of the Senate take part in a session within the senate chambers of the Iowa State Capitol Building on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Des Moines.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

An elections bill facing fierce opposition from some Iowans and Democratic legislators was approved by the state Senate on Tuesday.

Senate File 413 passed on party lines with a vote of 30-18. It’s companion bill, HF590, will be debated in the House Wednesday.

 Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, introduced the bill in the House and said on Monday that he intends to send the bill to the governor by Wednesday, despite nearly 1,000 Iowans registering for a public hearing in opposition to the bill.

SF413 would shorten the absentee voting period from 29 days to 18 days , limit ballot collection, and penalize county auditors that don’t follow state laws regarding the voting process. Proponents of the bill say that it will provide the necessary precautions to avoid election fraud. 

Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, said many Iowans believe the 2020 election was stolen. He said many polling locations shortcut election rules such as the signature verification and lowered security making them susceptible to tampering. No evidence of voter fraud was found in the state of Iowa.

Carlin, who announced he is running in the Republican primary for Chuck Grassley’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022, said it is hard for him and many other Americans to believe that Joe Biden got as many votes as he did and compared him to former president Barack Obama. 

“Fraud is voter suppression. When you have candidates who harvest ballots by paying hundreds of dollars for people who can harvest a ballot and turn them in, that to me is fraud. When you have drop boxes that have no security and can easily be tampered with, that facilitates fraud,” Carlin said. 

Carlin’s county, Woodbury, was one of three Iowa Counties that got involved in a legal battle due to pre-populated absentee ballot request forms, and with this bill, he said instances like that would not happen again. 

Some Iowa Democrats say the bill acts as a form of voter suppression, including Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines. Reducing the absentee voting period and limiting how and what individuals can participate in ballot collecting makes voting more difficult for people with disabilities and those who have complicated schedules. 

“This bill makes it harder to vote. Period. This is a voter suppression bill. We should be doing more to open the doors of democracy, not chopping early voting in half from where it was just a few short years ago,” Petersen said. 

A public hearing for the bill was held Monday where only 23 out of the nearly 1,000 signatures were in favor of the bill. 

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said on the Senate floor that the Republicans are correct about the fact that many Iowans are concerned about the security of elections, but he is disappointed by this bill because all Democratic-proposed amendments to the bill were denied by the majority party. 

Wahls said this should be a nonpartisan issue, yet Republicans are fast tracking it. 

“It’s been said that it wants to be on the governor’s desk tomorrow. What’s the rush?” Wahls said. “…Why aren’t we taking the time to forge a bipartisan compromise that will show the people of the state, that Democrats and Republicans can agree when it comes to election security?” 


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