“Integrity and security of Iowa elections are key to our representative democracy,” said Senator Roby Smith, a Republican from Davenport who is Senate State Government Committee chairman.
The bill would allow just one absentee ballot “drop box” per county, at the county auditor’s office, and make it a crime for anyone other than the voter or the voter’s relative or guardian to mail an absentee ballot or deliver it to the auditor’s office.
Republicans on a House committee have approved a similar bill, but it may be modified during debate in the full House next week.
“To be clear that I am committing firmly to changes,” said Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who is House State Government Committee chairman. “…I can’t commit to what changes or how far those may go.”
All the Democrats on both committees have voted against the bill in its present form. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, said it doesn’t seem to conform with the GOP goal of running government like a business.
“If we want deliver high quality customer service, we need to do everything we can to facilitate the ability of Iowans to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” Wolfe said.
Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, said the Senate bill appears designed “to squeeze early voting out of existence.”
“There is nothing, absolutely nothing more repulsive to me than cheating to win an election,” Jochum said. “I am sorry to say that it appears this legislation is designed to do just that.”
Smith said Democrats are using ‘tired talking points.”
“Voters in Iowa have many ways to vote in this state,” Smith said. “They can vote absentee. They can vote early…They can vote at polling places. They can register to vote on Election Day.”
The bill is likely to be approved by the Republican-led legislature next week. Governor Reynolds said a previous 40-day early voting period — eliminated a few years ago — was too long and 18 days is a compromise she’ll be “willing to take a look at.”
(This post was updated at 1:40 p.m. after House committee action.)