Grassley: Leave election decisions to the states

By: - August 4, 2021 1:56 pm

A voter at Roosevelt High School puts her ballot into the machine on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

As the U.S. Senate scrambles to create a new bipartisan elections bill, Sen. Chuck Grassley said he believes states should control their elections.

Grassley told reporters Wednesday that, since the nation’s founding, states have run their own elections. He acknowledged a few federal exceptions, like the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination at the ballot box, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires accommodations for people with disabilities to be able to vote.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from New Hartford, Iowa.

“Other than that, everything is left up to the states,” Grassley said. “And I think it should still be left up to the states.” 

Democrats this year pushed for a massive elections bill that would create new federal standards, including expanded voter registration, more options for early voting and new campaign finance laws. The legislation would have undone several Republican-led voting laws at the state level, including new restrictions introduced after the 2020 election. 

Senate Republicans in June blocked that elections bill.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, told the crowd at a rally outside the Capitol  Tuesday that the Senate was working on a bipartisan version of the legislation that would include a narrower set of priorities. Grassley said he had not seen the bipartisan proposal yet, but he objected to the idea of federal overreach in elections.

“What Democrats are trying to do is to make the … election laws all federal, to cement their political power,” Grassley said. 

When asked whether the state laws passed by Republicans gave advantage to the GOP, Grassley responded the changes were meant to prevent fraud and scale back temporary COVID-19 changes.

Iowa’s latest election law, passed this spring, shortens the time frame for absentee voting, limits the number of ballot drop-boxes and introduces new rules for who can drop off another person’s ballot. Republican state lawmakers argued these changes would make Iowa elections more secure. Democrats argued the measures would make it harder to vote without any evidence of a need to tighten security.

“We’re just trying to, in the respective states, trying to overcome some of the things that have created credibility problems for the election rules,” Grassley said.

Grassley said that many of the changes made during COVID-19, like allowing more drop-boxes and making it easier to vote without visiting the polls, can be removed for post-COVID elections.

“What’s wrong with the mail system for voting?” Grassley asked. “I’ve been using it for, I’ll bet, the last 10 years.”

Grassley questions CDC authority to issue eviction moratorium

Grassley said he wasn’t sure whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had the authority to issue another eviction moratorium. But he said he wouldn’t “squabble about it,” so long as the measure was temporary.

“We instituted a lot of things because of that (COVID-19) crisis,” he said. “And some time, things that you institute have to come to an end.”

He argued that when the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, the emergency assistance, including the eviction moratorium and additional unemployment payments, should end as well.

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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.