# Exclusive



Exclusive: New Iowa absentee rules disenfranchised hundreds in 2022 primary

New restrictions on absentee voting prevented hundreds of Iowans from having their ballots counted in the June 7 primary election, Bleeding Heartland’s review of data from county auditors shows.

About 150 ballots that would have been valid under previous Iowa law were not counted due to a bill Republican legislators and Governor Kim Reynolds enacted in 2021, which required all absentee ballots to arrive at county auditors’ offices by 8:00 pm on election day. The majority of Iowans whose ballots arrived too late (despite being mailed before the election) were trying to vote in the Republican primary.

Hundreds more Iowans would have been able to vote by mail prior to the 2021 changes, but missed the new deadline for submitting an absentee ballot request form. More than half of them did not manage to cast a ballot another way in the June 7 election.

The new deadlines will trip up many more Iowans for the November election, when turnout will likely be about three times the level seen in this year’s primary, and more “snowbirds” attempt to vote by mail in Iowa from other states.

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Who the Iowa Democratic primary voters are

Early voting for Iowa’s June 7 primary begins on May 18. Democrats have one contested race for a federal office (Abby Finkenauer, Mike Franken, and Glenn Hurst are running for U.S. Senate) and one for a statewide office (Joel Miller and Eric Van Lancker are running for secretary of state). There are also many competitive primaries for Iowa House or Senate seats.

Turnout for this year’s primary will likely be much lower this year than in 2020, when Secretary of State Paul Pate sent every active registered voter an absentee ballot request form. In addition, a law Republicans enacted last year shortened Iowa’s early voting window from 29 days to 20 days and made it harder to return a completed ballot in time to have the vote counted.

Even so, more than 100,000 Democrats will likely participate in the June 7 election. I analyzed statistics and results from the last three cycles for clues on who Iowa Democratic primary voters are and where most of them live.

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Key state financial report four months late, not near completion

More than four months after the usual publication date of December 31, Iowa’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2021 is nowhere in sight.

It’s the second straight year that the detailed report on state finances is far behind schedule. The ACFR must be completed before many other annual audits of state government entities can be conducted.

For decades, Iowa routinely published the report within six months of the end of the previous fiscal year. That time frame earned the state a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the leading organization for government finance officers.

CAUSE OF DELAY STILL UNCLEAR

The report for fiscal year 2020 was delayed for about nine months, mostly because of accounting problems at Iowa State University. But the university told Bleeding Heartland in January that ISU “submitted all year-end financials, responded to audit questions and completed recommended changes for the final financial statements by Nov. 12, 2021.” That’s only about six weeks after the deadline for most state government entities to send fiscal year-end data to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services.

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DNR director offers a cautionary tale for Iowans who hunt, fish

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Kayla Lyon has a message for Iowans after being cited on March 21 for fishing without a license in Jackson County.

Reached by email on March 25, Lyon confirmed a record in Iowa Courts Online referred to her citation, explaining,

I had my combination hunting and fishing license set to auto renew but my bank issued me a new card and I forgot to update the system. I was paddlefishing on the Mississippi last Friday [March 18]. When I was informed that I didn’t have a valid license, I asked our law enforcement chief to issue me a citation as soon as we could connect on Monday morning. It was an honest mistake but the laws apply to me just like anyone else. I have since gone online and renewed my combination license.

I’m told this situation is not uncommon. I would encourage anyone with an Iowa license to routinely check their accounts to ensure this doesn’t happen to them.

I would guess that most people who use credit cards have forgotten to update their information on some recurring charge after getting a new card. So this case presents a useful warning to Iowa’s “hook and bullet crowd”: next time you go fishing or hunting, check beforehand to make sure your licenses are up to date.

Lyon set a good example by acknowledging her mistake, knowing the citation would be listed in publicly available databases.

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Barriers for third-party candidates reduced Iowa voters' choices

New laws enacted by Republican legislators and Governor Kim Reynolds succeeded in limiting third-party competition for Iowa’s state and federal offices.

According to the general election candidate list published by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office on March 21, only one minor-party candidate qualified for a federal office this year: Bryan Jack Holder, who is running in the fourth Congressional district. Libertarians are fielding candidates for governor and lieutenant governor: Rick Stewart and Marco Battaglia. In 2018, Libertarian candidates were on the ballot for all of Iowa’s statewide and federal offices.

No independent candidate filed for any federal or statewide office in Iowa this year. For most of the last decade’s elections, independent candidates were on the ballot for several of those offices.

Only two candidates not representing a major party filed for any of the the 34 Iowa Senate seats on the ballot in 2022; both are running in Senate district 17. Across the 100 Iowa House races, only three Libertarian candidates and four independents will appear on the November ballot.

Before Republicans passed new restrictions in 2019 and 2021, Iowa voters were able to choose candidates not representing either major party in more elections.

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