Iowa Republicans unveil assault on early voting

UPDATE: The Iowa Senate and House approved a revised version of this bill on February 23 and 24. Original post follows.

Republican-controlled states “are increasingly not ‘laboratories of democracy,’ but ‘laboratories of democratic backsliding,’” political scientist Jake Grumbach noted in a new article by Perry Bacon Jr. for FiveThirtyEight.com.

Look no further than the Iowa legislature, where House and Senate Republicans unveiled a wide-ranging election bill on February 16. The 37-page legislation would make it much harder for Iowans to obtain and cast absentee ballots, either using the mail or voting early in person.

While House Republicans worked with Democrats to remove many voter suppression provisions from election bills the Iowa Senate had approved in 2019 and 2020, House State Government Committee chair Bobby Kaufmann is now on board with every piece of this year’s attempt to make it harder for Iowans to vote.

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Linn County auditor exploring 2022 bid for Iowa secretary of state

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller may run for secretary of state next year, the Democrat announced on his blog January 30. Miller created an exploratory committee in November with the goal of recruiting “a current or former county auditor to run for Secretary of State in 2022 or to run for Secretary of State myself.”

If Miller runs for statewide office, he’ll transfer money raised by the exploratory committee to his campaign account. He plans to transfer any unspent funds to the Iowa Democratic Party if he decides not to challenge Republican incumbent Paul Pate.

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Conflict resolved over Iowa absentee ballot drop boxes

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office has confirmed in writing what Secretary of State Paul Pate said last week: county auditors may place secure drop boxes outside government buildings, to make it easier for voters to hand-deliver absentee ballots.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller has opted not to fight the state’s interpretation and will remove three boxes his office had set up near grocery stores in the Cedar Rapids area.

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Iowa secretary of state backpedals on ballot drop box crackdown

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate will not seek to prevent county auditors from setting up drop boxes outside their offices for voters to hand-deliver absentee ballots, he announced on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program on August 28.

The same day, state elections director Heidi Burhans told county auditors in writing that “a no-contact delivery system” for absentee ballots will be allowed “at your office or in the immediate outside area of your office building.”

Pate still maintains county auditors cannot set up drop boxes “throughout the community,” a warning shot at Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

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Republicans press weak case against Linn, Johnson absentee mailings

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and four Republican Party entities filed suit on August 12, seeking to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot request forms in two large, Democratic-leaning Iowa counties. The plaintiffs allege Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert committed “illegal actions” when they mailed absentee ballot request forms that were pre-printed with voters’ information.

The Republican lawsuit is heavy on political posturing but fails to lay out a convincing legal case.

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