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Iowa House revises Senate’s absentee ballot bill

Updated: Jun. 12, 2020 at 8:17 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -The Iowa House easily passed a revised version to a controversial bill limiting automatically mailing out absentee ballot request forms. Instead of a ban, the new version now requires approval of a legislative committee to do that.

Secretary of State Paul Pate sent request forms to all voters ahead of the June primary to limit in-person voting due to COVID-19. That helped lead to record turnout.

The bipartisan bill overwhelmingly passed in the House. Republican Bobby Kaufmann and Democrat Bruce Hunter proposed the amendment.

The change essentially takes away the ability of the Secretary of the State to make emergency changes to elections. A legislative panel must first approve changes to procedures, like mailing out absentee request forms to all voters. Critics say the original bill banning that went too far.

"This senate bill, especially in the light of Covid-19 and everything absolutely made it harder to vote,” said Representative Bruce Hunter. “It was a straight-up voter suppression bill.”

Supporters of the original bill said absentee voting raised security concerns, but LULAC says absentee voting expands access for Latinos and other minorities. They say the amendment is a step in the right direction. "So we’re glad that some of the restrictions that were put in the original bill have been removed,” said Joe Henry with LULAC.

The revised bill keeps limits on county auditors from reducing the number of polling places. "So for people who are unable to vote by mail,” said Henry “To be able to walk to their voting location is extremely location.” LULAC would like to see everybody get the chance to vote by mail, especially during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

"People need to have that right to vote in a safe environment,” explained Henry. “So mailing in a ballot instead of walking into an environment where there may be someone else who is infected, or proper social precautions are not provided.”

The amended bill will now go to the senate. Governor Reynolds declined to comment on the original bill but praised Secretary of State Paul Pate for mailing out those request forms to all voters.

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