A last-minute Republican double-cross on absentee voting in Iowa

UPDATE: Governor Kim Reynolds signed this legislation on June 30.

Iowa Republicans have perfected the art of sneaking attacks on constitutional rights or the rule of law into budget bills shortly before adjourning for the year.

Last-minute budget amendments in 2019 sought to shorten the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s term, increase the governor’s influence over selecting judges, restrict medical care for transgender Iowans, and stop Planned Parenthood from obtaining sex education grants. Those measures spawned four lawsuits.

Judges will surely hear challenges to legislation Republicans enacted while burning the midnight oil this past weekend. A forthcoming post will address a 24-hour waiting period for abortion, approved during the session’s closing hours.

This post focuses on provisions that would make it harder for Iowans to vote by mail. Marc Elias, one of the country’s most prominent Democratic election lawyers, promised on June 14, “This will not stand. We will sue.”

Don’t bet against him. A Polk County District Court already struck down similar language in an administrative rule as “irrational, illogical, and wholly unjustifiable.”

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Paul Pate angered by county auditors' criticism of voter ID bill

Stung by criticism of his proposal to enact new voter ID and signature verification requirements, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate accused some county auditors of pursuing a “partisan” agenda, as well as lobbing “blatant distortions,” “smears,” and “cheap shots.” Pate made the accusations during a legislative briefing for the Iowa State Association of County Auditors on March 9. Earlier that day, House Republicans had approved a version of Pate’s bill, ignoring feedback from many who warned the legislation would disenfranchise eligible voters.

At least four Democratic county auditors are considering running for secretary of state next year, largely because Pate has pushed for voter ID, Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register yesterday. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, and Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz will likely confer and “agree in advance on putting forward a single candidate,” they told Noble. Nathan Blake may also seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.

Pate didn’t call out any county auditors by name during his March 9 speech, but he sounded particularly enraged by Weipert, who has been a leading critic of the voter ID bill and testified against the proposal at a public hearing.

The Secretary of State’s Office made a recording of Pate’s remarks (which I requested on March 14) available to me only this morning. You can download the file through Dropbox. I enclose below my partial transcript. UPDATE: Embedded the video below, since the Dropbox link wasn’t working for some.

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