Bill to change Iowa’s election laws passed in House, heads to governor’s desk

HF590 passed through the Iowa House with a vote of 57-37. This bill, which would change Iowa’s election laws, was highly opposed in a public forum on Monday, but will head to the Governor’s office in search of a signature.


Ryan Adams

After being nominated to Speaker of the House, Rep. Pat Grassley is escorted to the front of the chambers for oath of office during the opening of the 2021 legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

The Iowa House passed a bill on Wednesday that would shorten the early voting period and place other limitations on voting, sending the bill to the governor’s office.

The House passed the measure along party lines in a vote of 57-37. The topic sparked more than four hours of debate where Democrats shared what they believed was wrong with the bill.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, companion bills House File 590 and Senate File 413, would shorten the absentee ballot return from 29 days to 20 days as well as limit each Iowa county to one ballot drop box. The bill would also close Iowa’s polls an hour earlier on Election Day, moving the close time from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. Any absentee ballots that arrived at the auditor’s office after that hour would not be counted.

In a public forum on Monday, nearly 1,000 people signed in opposition to the bill and roughly 20 signed in support.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who introduced the bill, said that this bill is intended to protect the integrity of Iowa’s election system. Kaufmann said previously that he heard from Iowans who wanted these measures taken, but other legislators disagreed.

“The ultimate voter disenfranchisement is any voter not having faith in our election system,” Kaufmann said.

Another provision in the bill would increase the penalty for election misconduct by a county auditor from a serious misdemeanor to a felony.

Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, said she was expecting more negotiations and improvements to the bill but instead she read a bill that was even worse. She said this version of the bill put even more restrictions on voting.

“This amendment makes it harder to vote and does not do one thing to improve voter integrity,” Bohannan said.

Bohannan questioned the motive for why legislators would want to shorten the time frame Iowans have to vote. She said with all the new measures, a single day of voting technically takes longer now.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said this bill would add unnecessary barriers to voters by limiting their options and the time they have to complete the process. She said many Iowans would be disenfranchised because they may cast their votes on time, but their ballots came in after the polls closed.

“It’s my hope that we can find common ground to provide a bipartisan solution for that problem, so I do believe there are things we can do to improve our voter laws and make it easier for people to cast their ballots,” Mascher said.

In his closing remarks, Kaufmann responded to Democrats’ comments about voter suppression, and said that thousands of Iowans tell the Republican caucus that they want this bill and support it.

“It’s going to remain really easy to vote after this legislation is signed into law. This bill protects Iowans’ right to vote, and adds certainty and security to it,” Kaufmann said.

The bill will now head to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her signature.