Iowa Republican leaders oppose federal election bill

By: - June 22, 2021 4:25 pm

Voters head into Des Moines Precinct 16 at the Northwest Community Center to vote on Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Jim Obradovich for Iowa Capital Dispatch)

An election bill working through the U.S. Congress is “expensive, unnecessary (and) a huge federal overreach,” according to two Iowa Republican leaders.

The bill, S.1, is a sweeping, 818-page election law that would overrule voting restrictions in many states. The bill would require states meet a standardized set of rules for ballot access, allow online voter registration and registration at state agencies, expand early voting to 15 days minimum, mandate ballot drop boxes based on population, forbid gerrymandering and create new reporting requirements and restrictions on campaign donations.

Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, and Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate told reporters Tuesday that the legislation went against what Iowans wanted.

“This federalizes elections, even though the vast majority of Americans and Iowans do not want it,” Kaufmann said. 

Pate focused his opposition on a section of the bill that would allow voters without an ID to instead sign an affidavit about their identity. That could nullify parts of Iowa’s 2018 voter ID law, and Pate said that it could make it easier to double or triple vote.

“Asking people to prove their identity before casting a ballot is a common sense protection that has been in place in Iowa since 2018,” Pate said. “We have seen record voter participation three times since its implementation.”

Kaufmann said the legislation was a “political, desperate move” by federal Democrats. 

“This is a way to hold onto power, although every indication is that 2022 is going to be Republican,” Kaufmann said, citing a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll report that 52% of Iowans said they disapproved of the job Joe Biden is doing as president

Iowa Democrats issued a statement in support of the federal proposal and in opposition to an Iowa election law passed in March.

“Don’t be fooled by the spin, the new law signed by Governor Reynolds is designed to suppress the votes, especially for vulnerable Iowans,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn.  “Iowa Republicans would rather rig the system in their favor than be held accountable for the problems they’ve caused for working families across the state.”

D.C. Democrats reach a compromise, but legislation likely to stall in Senate

As Pate and Kaufmann spoke to Iowa reporters, the legislation was on the move in Washington. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday afternoon. The Hill reported Tuesday that Manchin agreed to vote in favor of debating the legislation on the House floor, and Schumer agreed to let Manchin introduce his own version of the bill — one with a voter ID requirement — as an amendment.

The Senate planned to take up the bill Tuesday night, but Republicans, united in their opposition to the legislation, will likely block it from floor debate.

Both senators from Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst, oppose the election bill. Grassley alleged on Twitter that the election bill would allow illegal immigrants to vote. PolitiFact reported in March that claim was false


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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.