Opinion | Iowa’s bill to limit early voting is voter suppression, not fraud reduction

The house passed a bill that will make early voting more difficult and will ultimately suppress votes.


Grace Smith

Johnson County holds Drive-Up early voting in the parking ramp of the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building on Oct. 23, 2020. Voters follow signs and wait in a line of cars to cast their ballot.

Josie Taylor, Opinions Contributor

Last week, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill that would shorten the time Iowans can vote early or absentee by nine days, and polling locations on Election Day would close an hour earlier. Iowa legislators claim the bill will reduce voter fraud, but in reality, it’s just a form of voter suppression.

Voter suppression is nothing new to Iowa. And until just last summer, Iowa was the only state in the country that barred felons from voting even after the completion of their sentences.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said that he introduced this bill because he believes voter suppression is when electorates don’t have faith in the election system.

But what Kaufmann doesn’t say is that the bill he introduced is actually preventing people from voting — the true form of voter suppression.

Voter suppression by definition is any effort, either legal or illegal, by way of laws, administrative rules, or state-sanctioned or unofficial voter intimidation that prevents U.S. citizens from registering to vote or voting.

In the 2020 general election, almost 60 percent of Iowans voted early, but there has not been any election fraud cases brought to court in the state. Clearly, voter fraud is something Iowa already has completely under control.

In the year with the earliest voting, we saw one of the safest elections in history. So how could it be that restricting early voting will eliminate voter fraud? To put it simply, it won’t.

It is not surprising that Iowan Republican lawmakers would want to limit early voting because registered Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote early. Republican elected officials know that if they restrict early voting, they are in turn restricting Democratic voters. This will make winning easier for them, but they should care more about having a fair democratic system in Iowa than winning.

Since Election Day is not a national or even state holiday, people do not get off work to vote. Before the pandemic, Iowa had the largest percentage of workers in the entire country, meaning that many Iowans will likely be working for every election.

This new bill also unfairly targets the middle class. Those who make less than $30,000 a year are more likely to vote early than voters in any other income bracket.

In addition, people between the ages of 18 and 24 are the second most likely age group to vote absentee. Every student at the University of Iowa should be appalled by this bill because restricting early voting is restricting college students’ ability to vote.

Voting is a right that all Americans should have easily, and Republican legislators are making it very clear they do not want everyone to vote.

Republicans should be ashamed of their cowardly attempt at voter suppression. They should be even more ashamed that they are doing it while claiming that is protecting Iowa. Suppressing votes of Iowans does nothing to help Iowans.

The Legislature should not have passed this bill, and the governor must not sign it into law.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.