The General Assembly wants to tinker with how elections operate in Iowa. Since the opening of the 2015 session, there have been five bills relating to the electoral process offered in the House and Senate. They range from a bill to allow small cities to hold their municipal elections by absentee ballot only to a wholesale change to how elections are funded in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Senate File 10, offered up by state Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), would require runoff primary elections whenever there is an “inconclusive” primary election. Iowa law requires a candidate to have at least 35 percent of the vote to win a primary election. When no candidate reaches the 35-percent threshold, a convention is held to determine the winner. U.S. Rep. David Young was the fifth-place finisher in the June primary election last year, but won the Republican nomination after several ballots at a district convention.
Zaun took first place in the primary with 24.8 percent, followed by Robert Cramer, who had 21.3 percent, and former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who had 19.9 percent. Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director Monte Shaw came in fourth with 17 percent, while Young had just 15.5 percent of the vote.
Senate File 10, if enacted as drafted, would replace the nominating conventions with a runoff primary election between the top two vote recipients. The bill also states that a write-in candidate who comes in either first or second place would be placed on the runoff ballot as an official candidate.
The bill would also automatically set the date of the runoff as four weeks after the primary election. In Iowa, primary elections are held on the first Tuesday not the first day of the month in June of the year of the general election. An “if practicable” clause is included for the years when Independence Day would fall on the fourth week after the June primary election.