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Proposed Voting Changes in IA Debated at Public Hearing

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Iowa is one of several states to see election reform bills surface following the 2020 election. Such legislation would place further restrictions on certain options, including early voting. (Adobe Stock)
Iowa is one of several states to see election reform bills surface following the 2020 election. Such legislation would place further restrictions on certain options, including early voting. (Adobe Stock)
February 23, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa lawmakers gathered public testimony Monday on controversial legislation opponents describe as voter suppression.

Supporters argue the state's election laws need updates after many voters opted to cast their ballots absentee last year.

The proposed bills, including House Bill 590 would reduce early voting from 29 days to 18, and would prohibit county auditors from doing blanket mail-outs of absentee ballot request forms. Instead, they could be sent out if a voter asks for one.

Deidre DeJear, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Secretary of State, said the plan flies in the face of Iowa's history of standing up for social justice.

"Our ancestors who fought for desegregation, our ancestors who fought for voting rights, who ushered in progress for each and every one of us to be here in this moment as we speak," DeJear remarked.

Republicans pushing for the changes say they want more uniformity behind Iowa's election process, pointing to larger-scale efforts by election offices to mail out absentee forms as the pandemic worsened.

The legislation mirrors GOP proposals in other states to restrict voting following the 2020 election.

But opponents contended the changes would make it harder for marginalized voters to participate.

Such efforts also are viewed as a Republican response to claims by former President Donald Trump the election was stolen from him, despite those claims being rejected by the courts.

DeJear argued the move is unnecessary, especially after the state saw a record 1.7 million people vote last fall.

"Those people were exercising their rights," DeJear stated. "Those people were in action, showing us what democracy looks like."

She added it was Republicans and Democrats participating equally.

So far, the legislation has passed a committee vote in both the House and Senate.

The plan, which is opposed by many county auditors, calls for criminal charges against auditors who don't follow guidance from the Secretary of State.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA