Revised GOP election bill would exclude thousands more Iowa voters

UPDATE: Governor Reynolds signed the bill on March 8. Top Democratic election attorney Marc Elias posted on Twitter, “This is the first major suppression law since the 2020 election. Expect litigation here and elsewhere GOP legislatures follow this path.” Bleeding Heartland covered the lawsuit Elias filed here. Original post follows.

On a party-line vote of 30 to 18, the Iowa Senate on February 23 approved Senate File 413, a new version of a bill that would restrict every aspect of the early voting process. The following day, the Iowa House approved the bill on a party-line 57 to 37 vote. Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill; Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have each endorsed limits on early voting in recent days.

Although State Senator Roby Smith’s amendment addressed a few of the concerns raised by county auditors and advocates for vulnerable populations, the revised legislation would make it even harder for thousands of Iowans to have their absentee ballots counted. In a new twist, it shortens election-day voting hours as well.

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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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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2021

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2021 session on January 11 with 31 Republicans, eighteen Democrats, and one vacancy in the district formerly represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks. A record twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber last year and double the six who served prior to 2018.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. A few committees have new Republican leaders.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs, three Zachs, and two men each named Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

UPDATE: Republican Adrian Dickey won the January 26 special election to represent Senate district 41, giving the GOP a 32-18 majority. After he’s sworn in, I’ll note his committee assignments below.

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The 20 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2020

Since I started reviewing Bleeding Heartland’s most widely-read posts at the end of each year, I’ve had mixed feelings about the practice. My organizing principle on any given day is not chasing clicks, but looking for ways to add value, either by covering Iowa political news not reported elsewhere, or by offering a different perspective on the big story of the day. I try not to be hyper-aware of traffic numbers, so as not to let those drive editorial decisions.

On the other hand, it is fun at year-end to recap the posts that were particularly popular with Bleeding Heartland readers, and I usually find a few surprises.

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Iowa SOS will need permission for future emergency election changes

Secretary of State Paul Pate will need approval from the Legislative Council in order to use his emergency powers to alter election procedures, under a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed on June 25.

While Republicans have a majority on that legislative body, it’s not clear they would use that power to prevent Pate from repeating steps that led to record-breaking turnout for the June 2 primary.

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