Iowa flap raises fears of politicized local election offices | Thomas Beaumont and Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

 It had been eight years since a Republican candidate even stepped forward to challenge Democrat Roxanna Moritz as the top elections official in Scott County, Iowa. Running unopposed in 2016 and 2020, Moritz had become, over her four terms as auditor, the top vote-getter ever in this swing-voting county along the Mississippi River, the third most-populous in the state. Moritz’s abrupt resignation last month came after months of tension that degenerated into personal attacks and threats of violence. Her departure and partisan moves since then are signs that an office long viewed as nonpartisan is now fair game in the political fight about trust in the nation’s elections. “We took a lot of crap in my office, all of us,” Moritz said in an interview, describing angry, sometimes threatening calls from the public accusing her of fixing the 2020 election. “It was all partisan intimidation.” Republicans who control the Scott County Board of Supervisors said politics played no part in their criticism of Moritz’s handing of a county finance matter last year that led to calls from voters for her resignation. She is accused of falsifying working hours for poll workers to justify paying them more before the June 2020 primary when the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult to recruit help. The state auditor, Democrat Rob Sand, is investigating. But the issue festered with a number of Republican voters in Scott County who were upset with the outcome of the presidential election nationally, even though Republican Donald Trump handily won Iowa over Democrat Joe Biden in his bid for a second term.

Full Article: Iowa flap raises fears of politicized local election offices

Iowa Republicans pass new absentee ballot restrictions | David Pitt and Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

Iowa Republicans have approved strict limits on who can assist voters in delivering ballots in a surprise change to state election law hours before adjourning the legislative session. Legislators approved the restrictions in a party-line vote late Wednesday, just weeks after Iowa became one of the first Republican-run states to extensively rewrite election rules to tighten other aspects of voting, including when ballots can be turned in and how voter rolls are maintained. Republicans said the changes would enhance the security of voting, though have acknowledged that voting fraud is rare in Iowa and the last election had almost no problems. More than 1 million Iowans voted by absentee ballot in November, a record attributed in part to the pandemic and efforts by election officials to encourage voters to cast ballots at home. Officials have not released data on how often people other than voters return ballots in Iowa, and supporters of the new restriction didn’t offer examples of practices that have led to fraud.

Full Article: Iowa Republicans pass new absentee ballot restrictions – ABC News

Iowa Democrat Rita Hart, claiming ‘toxic campaign of political disinformation,’ withdraws election challenge in Iowa’s 2nd District | Brianne Pfannenstiel/Des Moines Register

Iowa Democrat Rita Hart is withdrawing her challenge to U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller Meeks’ election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District following what she claimed was a toxic disinformation campaign, she announced Wednesday. The move puts an end to a bitter partisan fight that has rippled across the country and that threatened to drag on through the summer. The sudden reversal also takes pressure off moderate and vulnerable Democrats who have appeared to grow increasingly uncomfortable with the possibility of voting to overturn a state-certified election. But even as she ended her official challenge, Hart made clear Wednesday that she stands by her claims. “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans,” Hart said in a statement announcing the decision. “It is a stain on our democracy that the truth has not prevailed and my hope for the future is a return to decency and civility.” Miller-Meeks, who has been seated in Congress provisionally since January, issued a statement Wednesday thanking Hart for the decision. “I know how extremely difficult it is to lose an election, but for the people to have faith and confidence in the election system and Iowa laws, it was gracious of her to concede at this time,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to work to represent the people of Iowa’s Second District.”

Full Article: Iowa’s 2nd District: Democrat Rita Hart drops her U.S. House challenge

Iowa Governor signs law shortening early voting, hours on Election Day | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

Four months after Iowans voted in record numbers, Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed legislation cutting the state’s early voting period and closing the polls an hour earlier on Election Day. The Iowa Legislature approved the measure and sent it to Reynolds’ desk late last month. Every Republican present for debate in the House and Senate voted for the legislation. Every Democrat voted against it. Reynolds, a Republican, signed the law Tuesday. Iowa is among a national wave of Republican-led states whose leaders have expressed concerns about the integrity of the 2020 elections, taking the lead from former President Donald Trump, who falsely claimed the election was stolen from him. States such as Florida and Georgia have undertaken high-profile efforts to limit absentee voting after the practice surged in 2020. While there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Iowa or nationally, Republicans have described the state’s legislation as an election integrity measure and said it will bring uniformity across Iowa’s 99 counties. Democrats say the law will suppress votes and does nothing to improve election security. 

Full Article: Gov. Reynolds signs law shortening early voting, hours on Election Day

Iowa Republicans Approve Fast-Track Dramatic Election Bill | David Pitt/Associated Press

Iowa House Republicans cast the final vote needed Wednesday to send a bill to the governor that sharply limits early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP candidates. The bill passed with only Republican votes just a day after it similarly passed the Senate. Supporters of the legislation cited fraud concerns as the reason early voting must be reined in. However, like in many other Republican-led states where similar steps are being considered, there historically haven’t been widespread concerns about irregularities in the election system. “When we go back home and talk to people in the gas stations, at the grocery stores and at the hardware stores there is no disputing there are tens of thousands of Iowans that tell this Republican caucus every single week when we go home we emphatically support this bill, we want this bill, we think this bill is necessary and we support it,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who managed the bill in the House. Democrats who are outnumbered in both chambers were left aghast but in no position to stop the changes. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, has indicated she’d consider them. “Last fall we had elections overseen by a Republican secretary of state in which Republicans gained seats in the Iowa House and the U.S. House, so if there is any significant voter fraud in this state then two things are true,” Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames said. “It’s your fault, and second, it raises questions of the legitimacy of your own elections.”

Full Article: Iowa Republicans Approve Fast-Track Dramatic Election Bill | Political News | US News

Iowa bill shortening early voting period heading toward passage this week | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

Iowa lawmakers spent an hour Monday night listening to members of the public criticize legislation to shorten the state’s early voting period. But the public comments are unlikely to slow the measure down. It is expected to pass the state House and Senate this week. Opponents of the legislation outnumbered supporters at an hourlong public hearing in the House Monday night. Hundreds of people also submitted comments about the legislation online, the vast majority of which were opposed. Some speakers said they were concerned that the legislation would make it harder for elderly and disabled Iowans to vote. Others praised the bill, which they said would increase the integrity and uniformity of Iowa elections. Companion bills in the House and Senate, House File 590 and Senate File 413, would shorten Iowa’s early voting period by 11 days, taking it from 29 days to 18. The legislation would also forbid county auditors from mailing absentee ballot request forms to voters or set  up satellite voting sites unless petitioned. And the bills would create new criminal charges for county auditors who disobey state rules.

Full Article: Iowans weigh in on bill, headed for quick passage, shortening early voting period

Iowa: It might just be game over for the Iowa caucuses | David Siders and Elena Schneider/Politico

The siege of Iowa and New Hampshire has begun. The two states with privileged places on the presidential primary calendar are finding their roles more threatened than ever before — most recently in the form of a bill introduced in Nevada this week to move that state’s nominating contest to the front of the line in 2024. On its own, the Nevada encroachment would mean little. For years, Iowa and New Hampshire have successfully defended their one-two position from states eager to jump ahead. But the combination of Iowa’s botched 2020 caucus and increasing diversity in the Democratic Party’s ranks has made the whiteness of Iowa and New Hampshire all the more conspicuous, putting the two states on their heels and throwing the 2024 calendar into turmoil. “There’s no reason in the world that those states should go forward so early, because they’re not representative of what 90 percent of the country’s all about,” said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who remains influential in party politics. “America looks different than it did 50 years ago, when these traditions were put in place, and the Democratic electorate looks really different.” He added, “It’s no longer palatable, as far as I’m concerned, for those states to take precedence over states like South Carolina and Nevada.”

Full Article It might just be game over for the Iowa caucuses – POLITICO

Iowa Democrats pushing ahead on recount reform; Republicans await US House decision | Tom Barton/Quad-City Times

State Democratic lawmakers plan to push forward a bipartisan proposal to reform Iowa’s election recount process in the wake of issues that arose in Iowa’s historically close U.S. House race, which is still being challenged in Congress. Republicans, meanwhile, say they will not wade into the issue until after the U.S. House resolves the disputed outcome in southeast Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. “We’re going to let the process play out in the (U.S.) House” before taking up or passing any proposed election reforms, said Davenport Republican state Sen. Roby Smith, chairman the Iowa Senate State Government Committee responsible for advancing such bills. “We can look at it this year and pass it next year, before the general election in 2022.” Wilton Republican state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, chairman of the House State Government Committee, echoed Smith. Democrats, however, say they’re hopeful to get a bipartisan proposal passed yet this session that both parties can support. “I’d like us to be able to have a discussion about that and to have some give and take about what should be in that law,” said Iowa City Democrat state Rep. Mary Mascher, ranking member of the House State Government Committee. “We definitely know there should be changes made to our current law. … And I am hopeful that we can get that accomplished this session.”

Full Article: Democrats pushing ahead on Iowa recount reform; Republicans await US House decision | Iowa news | siouxcityjournal.com

Iowa: Miller-Meeks’ attorney looking for rejected ballots in contested U.S. House race | Tom Barton/Quad City Times

More than a month after Democrat Rita Hart identified 22 ballots she claimed were legally cast but not counted, an attorney for Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is now looking for rejected ballots. Miller-Meeks was provisionally sworn in as a new member of Congress last month after state officials certified the election results. Hart has asked the U.S. House to investigate and overturn the race that state officials say she lost to Miller-Meeks by six votes following a district-wide recount in all 24 counties. Appanoose County Auditor Kelly Howard said an attorney for Miller-Meeks contacted the Appanoose County Auditor’s office Monday requesting copies of all rejected absentee ballot envelopes.

Full Article: UPDATED: Miller-Meeks’ attorney looking for rejected ballots in contested Iowa U.S. House race | Local News | qctimes.com

Iowa: Democrats Weigh Whether State Keeps 1st Presidential Contest | Clay Masters/NPR

While it’s only 2021, a major question facing Democrats this year and next will be what to do about the presidential nominating calendar and whether Iowa, in particular, should retain its prized place at the front of the calendar in 2024. Iowa’s decades-long lock on the nominating process has been under threat since last year’s disastrous caucus, when results were delayed for days due in part to a faulty smartphone app that was supposed to make things easier for precinct captains when they reported results. Ultimately, The Associated Press never declared a winner in the contest because of problems with the vote count, which was administered by the Iowa Democratic Party. Iowa’s voters are also older, more rural and more white than many other states so it’s seen as increasingly out of step with the Democratic mainstream, which increasingly relies on voters of color and young people for its support. President Biden’s newly installed pick to lead the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison of South Carolina, will get a chance to shake up the calendar by appointing members to the party’s rules and bylaws committee. Unlike past presidents, Biden didn’t win in Iowa (he came in fourth, after former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and owes no political debt to the complex caucus process. “I think on its merits that the Iowa caucus falls short of the values that we espouse as Democrats,” Julian Castro said. Castro served as housing and urban development secretary under President Barack Obama and ran for president himself in 2020.

Full Article: Democrats Weigh Whether Iowa Keeps 1st Presidential Contest : NPR

Iowa: Miller-Meeks Files Motion To Dismiss Hart’s Election Challenge Before U.S. House | Kate Payne/Iowa Public Radio

Republican Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks filed a motion Thursday asking the U.S. House to dismiss a challenge brought by her opponent, former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart, who is disputing her six-vote margin in the November election. Miller-Meeks’ legal team argues the contest should be dismissed because Hart didn’t first make her case in state court.Miller-Meeks’ filing Thursday marks the next step in an appeals process before the Committee on House Administration, which will determine whether to dismiss the case or allow it to proceed. Ultimately, following a recommendation the committee, the full House could decide by simple majority vote who should have the seat. Miller-Meeks has labeled Hart’s challenge before the Democratically-controlled chamber as a “political” process, rather than a legal one. In November, state officials certified Miller-Meeks as the winner, following a districtwide recount requested by Hart. The final official tally of votes was 196,964 to 196,958, making the contest the closest federal race in the country during the 2020 cycle. In the motion filed Thursday, Miller-Meeks’ legal team argues that “more than a century” of precedent has established that contestants should exhaust all legal remedies at the state level before appealing to Congress. “Time and time again they have dismissed election contests where the contestant has failed to take advantage of mechanisms under state law to raise these issues,” said Alan Ostergren, an attorney for Miller-Meeks and a former Muscatine County Attorney. “That is by far the most important point that we raise in our motion, that because Rita Hart did not take advantage of the provisions available to her under Iowa law, that…the contest must be dismissed.”

Full Article: Miller-Meeks Files Motion To Dismiss Hart’s Election Challenge Before U.S. House | Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Legislature likely to address election recount inconsistencies | James Q. Lynch/Quad City Times

A still-unresolved U.S. House race in Iowa has prompted election officials to call for legislative action to address the procedures for recounts. Nine weeks after the Nov. 3 election, the outcome of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District is in the hands of the Democratic-controlled U.S. House. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks had a 282-vote lead in the 24-county southeast Iowa district on election night. That narrowed to 47 votes after late-arriving mail-in absentee and provisional ballots were counted, and precinct reporting errors were corrected. Iowa election officials on Nov. 30 certified her the winner by just six votes. That prompted Democrat Rita Hart to challenge the outcome, filing a petition asking the U.S. House for a review of all ballots cast in the race. Miller-Meeks has been seated provisionally while the fate of the contest is decided, but the U.S. House could reverse that. County auditors, campaigns and others have raised concerns about the vote recount process not being consistent from one county to another. In some counties, complete hand recounts were conducted in the race. Other counties did machine recounts and some, including Johnson and Scott counties, used a hybrid version. Iowa House State Government Chairman Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, doesn’t have a solution — yet. However, leaving the outcome of an Iowa election in the hands of the U.S. House is unacceptable to him.

Full Article: Iowa Legislature likely to address election recount inconsistencies | Local News | qctimes.com

Iowa Democrat asks House to review 6-vote race, cites errors | Ryan J. Foley/Associated Press

Democrat Rita Hart asked the U.S. House on Tuesday to investigate and overturn the race that Iowa says she lost by six votes, arguing that 22 ballots were wrongly excluded and others weren’t examined during the recount. In a notice of contest, Hart argued that she would have netted 15 votes and defeated Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks had the 22 ballots been tallied in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Hart’s filing asks the Democratic-led House to nullify the state-certified results, count the excluded ballots and conduct a uniform hand recount in the district’s 24 counties. She expressed confidence she will be the winner after that process. “Although it is admittedly tempting to close the curtain on the 2020 election cycle, prematurely ending this contest would disenfranchise Iowa voters and award the congressional seat to the candidate who received fewer lawful votes,” Hart lawyer Marc Elias wrote in the 176-page filing. Elias, a veteran of election contests nationwide, called it “an exceptionally unlikely scenario” for a candidate to be able to identify enough specific wrongly-rejected ballots that could change an election’s outcome. But Miller-Meeks and other Republicans accused Hart of seeking to be installed through a partisan power grab after losing a close election involving nearly 400,000 voters.

Full Article: Iowa Democrat asks House to review 6-vote race, cites errors

Iowa Democrats, 10 Months Later, Blame National Party for Caucus Meltdown | Reid J. Epstein/The New York Times

With Iowa’s closely watched presidential caucuses more endangered than ever after a disastrous showing in February that delayed results for days, the Iowa Democratic Party on Saturday sought to shift blame for the meltdown onto the Democratic National Committee. More than 10 months after the fiasco marred Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest, the state party circulated a blistering internal report asserting that the national party had meddled in and delayed the development of an app for reporting results, implemented coding errors in its back-end result reporting system and required new data that further complicated the process. The renewed sniping between Iowa Democrats and the national party comes at a critical time for the future of Iowa’s standing at the beginning of the presidential nominating calendar. The caucuses are a cherished tradition for Iowans, but an increasing number of national Democrats say they are outdated and undemocratic. The heart of the 26-page Iowa report blames the D.N.C. for the delay in results on caucus night. It states that the national party, weeks before the Feb. 3 caucuses, demanded a new tool to give it real-time results. This new tool, the report states, included coding errors that delivered inaccurate results, leading to a days-long delay before former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont finished in a virtual tie for first place.

Full Article: 10 Months Later, Iowa Democrats Blame National Party for Caucus Meltdown – The New York Times

Iowa Democrat to challenge 6-vote loss in appeal to US House | Ryan J. Foley/Associated Press

A Democratic congressional candidate who trailed by six votes after a recount said Wednesday she will forgo further legal challenges in Iowa and instead appeal directly to the U.S. House for additional recount proceedings. Rita Hart’s campaign had until Wednesday afternoon to contest the election under Iowa law following Monday’s certification of results in which Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the winner of the closest House race in decades. An election contest in Iowa would have set in motion the formation of a five-judge panel that would have been required to rule on who won the race by Tuesday, Dec. 8. Hart’s campaign said that quick timeline would not allow enough time to review all the ballots, including thousands of unexamined undervotes and overvotes and a small number of others that were not counted for a variety of reasons. Instead, the campaign said that Hart would file an election contest with the U.S. House under the Federal Contested Elections Act in the coming weeks. Such a filing, due within 30 days after Monday’s certification, will trigger a proceeding in front of the House Committee on Administration that would allow Hart to gather testimony and evidence.

Full Article: Iowa Democrat to challenge 6-vote loss in appeal to US House

Iowa: Scott County OKs congressional race recount results, despite ballot discrepancy | Tom Barton/Quad-City Times

Nearly four weeks after the election, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks is poised to be declared the official winner — by just six votes — in what has become the closest congressional race in the country, flipping a seat held by Democrats for the past 14 years. The Scott County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to certify the results of a county recount in the uncalled Iowa 2nd congressional district race, despite an unexplained 131-ballot discrepancy between the number of absentee ballots counted on election day and those counted by the recount board. A state canvassing board is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon, the legal deadline under Iowa Code, to certify the results of the race, following a districtwide recount in all 24 counties, and officially declare Miller-Meeks as the winner of the race. However, there is still a possibility of legal challenges brought by the campaign of Democrat Rita Hart, which would set in motion a proceeding before a judicial panel.

Full Article: Scott County OKs Iowa congressional race recount results, despite ballot discrepancy | Lee-wire | globegazette.com

 

Iowa: Scott County Auditor: 95% chance Iowa 2nd district US House race headed to court | Tom Barton/Quad City Times

The historically close race for an open southeast Iowa congressional seat could be nearing a single-digit victory as the tally continues to narrow as counties work to complete their recount of votes. Whatever the outcome, the race results are almost certainly headed to a legal challenge. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, as of late Wednesday afternoon, had 196,880 votes to Democrat Rita Hart’s 196,845, according to unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. The U.S. House race is the closest federal race in the country, and could become a single-digit race. “The reality that this is going to a (legal) contest, I believe, is, you know, 95% probability. They’re going to be within 50 votes of each other,” Scott County Auditor Roxanna Mortiz said Wednesday. The three-member recount board — which includes one representative from each campaign and one neutral member — in Scott County adjourned Wednesday without addressing a 131-ballot discrepancy between its tabulation of the absentee ballots received by the Scott County Auditor and those included in the county’s certified canvass of election results after election day. Rather than conduct a full machine recount of absentee ballots, the board decided, 2-1, over the objections of the Miller-Meeks’ campaign, to adjourn, leaving the unexplained discrepancy. Michael Bousselot, chief of staff to former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and the Miller-Meeks’ campaign representative, did not sign the recount board report “that has this cloud over it.” The board adjourned after requesting and awaiting legal advice from the Scott County Attorney, which advises the recount board.

Full Article: Scott County Auditor: 95% chance Iowa 2nd district US House race headed to court | News – Local and National | qctimes.com

 

Iowa: Three counties use voting machines to assist hand recount, defying Secretary of State opinion | Zachary Oren Smith/Iowa City Press-Citizen

Three county recount boards are defying a recent legal opinion from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and using a machine to aid the recount of ballots in the ultra-close 2nd District congressional race. Recount boards in Scott, Johnson and Clinton counties — the three most populous in the district — justified the move, saying it is necessary to ensure that the recount board’s three members have time to examine ballots the machines couldn’t read for voter intent to see if any were filed for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks or Democrat Rita Hart but were not tallied accordingly. Assistant Scott County Attorney Robert Cusack offered a legal opinion for his board writing that using a machine to assist the hand count is consistent with the recount board’s charge from Iowa Code to “tabulate all votes” and that a hand recount of all 60,000 votes is not required in light of the confidence in voting machines and the code’s own time constraint. “If the recount board can determine the intent of the voter, then that vote should be counted,” he said.

Full Article: Scott County defies Secretary of State with machine-assisted hand recount

Iowa’s 2nd District: Recounts begin with race still too close to call | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

At least one county in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District has begun the recount process in the closest federal race in the country. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks currently leads Democrat Rita Hart by just 47 votes out of more than 394,000 cast. Miller-Meeks has claimed victory, but Hart last week requested recounts in all 24 counties in the district. The winner of the race is not likely to be known until the end of the month, when the state certifies its election results. Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz said her county convened a recount board at 8 a.m. Tuesday to begin a machine recount the nearly 90,000 votes cast in the race there. The three-member board is made up of one person chosen by the Hart campaign, one person chosen by the Miller-Meeks campaign and a third person agreed upon by the other two. “This is a great opportunity in democracy because it’s a check and balance to us — to our system and to our equipment,” Moritz said. “And while I have full faith in the process, it allows the public to see that it works.” That “check and balance” will allow voters to know their vote was counted, she said.

Full Afrticle: Iowa’s 2nd District: Recounts begin with race still too close to call

Iowa: Judge backs limits on absentee ballot drop box sites | Ryan J. Foley/Associated Press

A judge has kept in place guidance from Iowa’s secretary of state that county elections commissioners can only set up absentee ballot drop boxes at or outside their offices. Judge William Kelly rejected a request from a Latino civil rights organization and a group aligned with Democrats to block Secretary of State Paul Pate’s guidance and allow for drop boxes in locations such as grocery stores. The ruling, coming nearly three weeks after Kelly heard arguments in the case, isn’t expected to have an impact because it comes so close to Election Day. Most absentee ballots have already been returned and auditors had dropped plans to add drop box locations even if Pate’s guidance was suspended. Kelly said that requiring voters or their designees to return ballots to a location where the county auditor conducts business is “not a severe burden” on the right to vote. He noted that voters can also put them in the mail or vote in person, either early or on Election Day. Iowa law says that absentee ballots should be returned to the county elections commissioner’s office by voters or their designees and is silent on the use of drop boxes to collect them.

Full Article: Judge backs Iowa’s limits on absentee ballot drop box sites

Iowa Supreme Court upholds Republican law on absentee voting requests | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Noines Register

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a new law making it harder for county auditors to process absentee ballot requests with missing or incomplete information, days before Iowa’s deadline to request a ballot for the 2020 election.The court issued a decision Wednesday evening upholding a Republican-supported law that prevents auditors from using the state’s voter registration database to fill in any missing information or correct errors when a voter requests an absentee ballot. The law instead requires the auditor’s office to contact the voter by telephone, email or physical mail.The League of United Latin American Citizens and Majority Forward, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit organization that supports voter registration and turnout efforts, sued Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional. They said auditors have used the database to correct errors in the past and that the law burdens Iowans’ right to vote.A district court upheld the law last month, and the Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Iowa: Secretary of State will mail ballot request forms ahead of November election | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

Secretary of State Paul Pate will mail an absentee ballot request form to all active registered Iowa voters before the November general election after a panel of Iowa lawmakers granted his request to do so on Friday. Before Iowa’s June 2 primary, Pate, a Republican, mailed absentee ballot request forms to the state’s roughly 2 million registered voters. His actions were credited with contributing to Iowa’s record turnout in that election, when more than 531,000 Iowans cast ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 80% of Iowans who voted in the primary did so by mail. But last month, the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature passed a law preventing him from doing the same thing in November without first getting approval from the Legislative Council. When the council, a 24-member body of legislative leaders that is controlled by Republicans, met Friday, it voted unanimously to grant Pate’s request. “I want Iowa voters and poll workers to be safe during this pandemic while we conduct a clean, fair and secure election. After consulting with all 99 county auditors, I believe the best way to accomplish that goal is by mailing an absentee ballot request form to every active registered voter in the state,” Pate said in a statement, noting that in-person voting will still be available.

Iowa: Lawmakers approve special election changes, turn down Democratic absentee ballot request | Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

A group of top Iowa lawmakers Wednesday approved the first request made by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to make emergency changes to the state’s election procedures since a new law went into effect last month. But the panel also turned down a Democratic request to allow the state office to send absentee ballot request forms to all registered Iowa voters. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed a law last week restricting Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, and any future secretary of state from making emergency changes to election procedures without first getting approval from the 24-member Legislative Council. The group is made up of Democratic and Republican lawmakers and controlled by Republicans. In the first test of the new law, the council met by phone Wednesday and granted Pate’s request to allow military personnel and overseas citizens the option to submit their ballots electronically to their county auditor when voting in seven July 7 special elections for vacant city council and county supervisor seats.

Iowa: Governor signs bill limiting use of voter database | David Pitt/Associated Press

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill Tuesday that will deny county officials the ability to use a voter database to confirm missing or incorrect information on absentee ballot requests. The measure was inserted by Republicans into a massive budget bill on the final day of the legislative session. Reynolds signed the measure into law, opting not to kill the rule change with a line-item veto. Republican Rep. Gary Mohr defended the measure in floor debate as an election security measure that would help “ensure a person who applies for an absentee ballot is the one who casts the absentee ballot.”

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds signs law limiting Iowa secretary of state’s powers in elections | Ian Richardson/Des Moines Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law new restrictions that will prevent Secretary of State Paul Pate from mailing ballot request forms to Iowans in November’s election without first seeking approval from legislators. The law will also prohibit county election officials from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35% during an election. The legislation was passed by state lawmakers after Pate and county election officials took similar steps before the primary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Leading up to the primary, Pate extended the mail-in voting period from 29 to 40 days and mailed ballot request forms to every registered voter in Iowa. The primary had record turnout, with nearly 80% of those casting ballots voting absentee. But Republicans in both chambers of the Legislature looked to limit Pate’s power, with some saying he had pushed the limits of his authority and that another secretary of state could use the same powers in an effort to reduce voter turnout.

Iowa: Republican lawmakers in Iowa push to limit absentee voting

Barely a week after Iowa election officials reported a record primary turnout after mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, Republican legislative leaders in the Senate pushed a bill that would limit the secretary of state’s ability to do so again. Senate Republicans argued the changes are needed to to fight voter fraud, though studies show millions of ballots have been cast by mail without significant problems. House Republicans worked with Democrats to amend the bill saying the Legislature should have the final say in how elections are conducted. “There’s a dire need to put common sense constraints on the secretary of state because they’re sorely needed,” Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann said during Thursday night debate in the House where the amendment passed 93-2. Democrats said the Senate bill was an effort to suppress voting because Republicans believe a higher turnout benefits Democratic candidates. On Wednesday night, the Senate approved extensive changes to election procedures in a vote with only Republican support.

Iowa: Senate Reublicans bar secretary of state from mailing absentee ballot requests | Erin Murphy/The Gazette

Iowa’s top elections official no longer would be permitted to mail absentee ballot request forms to voters unsolicited — a step taken this year ahead of the state’s June 2 primary election, which broke turnout records amid the coronavirus pandemic — under legislation approved Wednesday by Republicans in the Iowa Senate. The legislation also includes myriad other election changes, including limiting the number of polling locations county auditors can close during an emergency and requiring voters to complete verification information on absentee ballot request forms. The proposal also extends some deadlines to request absentee ballots, measures that had bipartisan support during Senate debate on the bill on Wednesday.

Iowa: Vote by mail: After record primary turnout, Iowa Senate Republicans try to limit vote-by-mail in presidential election | Nicole Goodkind/Fortune

Iowa set a new record for primary election turnout this month after secretary of state Paul Pate sent applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. More than 520,000 ballots were cast, according to Pate’s office, beating the previous record of 450,000 set in 1994. Now, Republicans in the state senate are trying to prevent him from doing the same in the general election this November. The Iowa Senate State Government Committee advanced a 30-page bill on a party-line vote late last week that would prohibit Pate, also a Republican, from proactively sending applications for mail-in-ballots to all registered voters. Anyone who wanted a mail-in ballot would need to submit a written request on their own and show proof of valid voter identification. The bill would prohibit the secretary from taking emergency election action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The secretary can make changes in cases of extreme weather or during wartime, it says, but not during a health crisis. It also prevents Pate from making any changes to the early or absentee voting process, even in an emergency.

Iowa: County auditor, local political and advocacy groups express concern over Senate bill that curbs absentee ballot, emergency powers – News | Robbie Sequeira/The Ames Tribune

The campaign by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to encourage voters to shift to absentee voting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic paid off during last week’s elections when the state set a record for primary turnout. Statewide, turnout was 24% for the June 2 voting. In Story County, it was 22%, also a record, with a total of 13,936 ballots cast. But it’s unclear whether the widespread mail-in balloting will be repeated in November. A state Senate bill authored and advanced by majority Republicans would prevent the secretary of state from repeating his pre-primary mailing of absentee ballot requests to every registered voter in the state. Instead, his office would only be permitted to mail ballot request forms to people who ask for them in writing. The bill also would limit the emergency powers of local election officials during the pandemic. including restricting the power of county auditors to reduce polling location by more than 35 percent during an emergency situation.

Iowa: Senate Republicans propose limiting election officials’ powers during emergency | Ian Richardson and Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

Three days after a statewide primary election that saw record turnout due largely to coronavirus-related absentee voting, Iowa Senate Republicans advanced legislation that would prevent election officials from repeating some of the same steps in the general election. The legislation would prohibit county auditors from reducing polling locations by more than 35% during an emergency and prohibit the secretary of state from mailing absentee ballot requests without a written voter request. Iowa election officials took both of those actions before Tuesday’s primary to ease both voting and election administration during the virus. Republicans have said they want to write guidelines to provide clarity for campaigns ahead of the November federal elections. But Democrats on Friday said the changes would suppress votes, and the amendment also drew outcry from local election officials.