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Iowa Senate passes bill to limit absentee voting, other election law changes

The Iowa statehouse in Des Moines.
The Iowa statehouse in Des Moines.(KCRG File)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:35 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A bill that would introduce changes to election law in the state has passed through the Iowa Senate.

The vote on Senate File 413 was 30-18, according to an image posted to the Twitter account of Democratic state Sen. Sarah Garriott, with all Republicans voting for the bill and all Democrats opposing it.

The bills would limit the time for absentee voting and remove inactive voters faster. The bills would also make it a criminal offense for auditors to break state election rules. The bills come after multiple judges declared pre-filled-out absentee ballot forms invalid in multiple counties.

An amendment to the bill, adopted on Tuesday, would also shorten Iowa’s election day voting time for general elections by an hour, with polls closing at 8:00 p.m. for all elections. Currently, only city and school elections close at 8:00 p.m. with other elections, like state and federal, remaining open until 9:00 p.m.

Travis Weipert, the Johnson County Auditor and one of the auditors who sent out those invalid absentee ballot forms, said he expected a piece of legislation similar to these bills.

“We knew that some state reps, state senators were going to be vindictive on what we did,” Weipert said.

Weipert said he believes these bills are efforts at voter suppression.

“This is a case of if you can’t win elections fair and square then you have to change the rules,” Weipert said.

Nearly 800 people are registered to tell Iowa lawmakers what they think of proposed election reforms on Monday night with a majority of those being registered to speak against the bill.

Alan Ostergren, the president of the Kirkwood Institute, is one of the few people to speak in support of the proposed reforms. He said the bill is not an effort at voter suppression because there’s still time for people to fill out their ballots in advance of election day.

“It will bring the time periods on which people can vote by absentee ballot into the mainstream for states in that time period,” Ostergren said.

The House has yet to pass its version of the bill.

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