Iowa’s 29-day early voting period would be shortened to 18 days before an election under a bill Senator Roby Smith of Davenport is sponsoring.

“Setting absentee voting at 18 days will limit voter remorse, the length of campaigning in the state and allow more time for informed voting,” Smith said.

Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton has introduced a similar bill in the Iowa House.

“One of the most significant thing I heard on the campaign trail was that the election season is a lot longer than it shoud be,” Kaufmann said last night during a House subcommittee meeting.

During an online Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday afternoon, Vicki Aden of Iowa City spoke against the move to shorten the early voting period.

“Your job as legislators should be to make exercising our right to vote as easy as possible…not looking for ways to disenfranchise voters by making it difficult for them,” Aden said.

Amy Campbell-Fleming, a lobbyist representing the Area Agencies on Aging, raised concerns about a part of the bill that would ban county election officials from mailing absentee ballot application FORMS to voters.

“Individuals with disabilities or older Iowans may not have a printer to print it off at home,” Campbell-Fleming said. “Nor may they be able to have transportation or the time to go down to their county auditor’s office to get that.”

The bill also sets new fines for county auditors who fail to follow Iowa election law. It’s a reaction to auditors in Linn, Johnson and Woodbury Counties who, against state guidance, mailed absentee ballot request forms with the voter’s name and other information on the document last fall. Smith said the state cannot have “a handful of auditors” who disregard the law and “cause unnecessary confusion.”

Sioux County Auditor Ryan Dokter, president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, urged Smith and his Republican colleagues to reconsider those penalties.

“We make mistakes at times and the severe penalties may deter good, qualified people from public service,” Dokter said.

Both Republicans on the Senate subcommittee advanced the bill to the Senate State Government Committee. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, called it an election integrity bill.

“It addresses the controversy that the country is going through right now,” Schultz said.

Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque, the Democrat on the subcommittee, the bill appears to be “an attempt to squeeze early voting out of existence.”

The House and Senate State Government Committees are scheduled to debate the bills today.