Governor signs election bill into law, shortening absentee voting period

    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)

    Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a controversial elections bill that will shorten the absentee voting period and introduce new penalties for election officer misconduct.

    “It’s our duty and responsibility to protect the integrity of every election,” Reynolds said in a statement Monday. “This legislation strengthens uniformity by providing Iowa’s election officials with consistent parameters for Election Day, absentee voting, database maintenance, as well as a clear appeals process for local county auditors.”

    The bill generated controversy in the House and Senate as Democratic lawmakers argued the changes could make voting more difficult, especially for those with impaired mobility or limited transportation.

    Read more: What would the election bill change for Iowa voters?

    Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, criticized Republicans for rushing the bill through the process. Both chambers passed the bill within eight days of its introduction.

    “Why aren’t we taking the time to get this right?” Wahls asked. “Why aren’t we taking the time to forge a bipartisan compromise that can show the people of the state that Democrats and Republicans can agree when it comes to election security?”

    Several Republican-led states have introduced legislation to change election systems since the 2020 election. In Georgia, the New York Times reports, bills are moving through the Legislature that would limit voting on Sundays, when many Black churches lead groups to the polls. Arizona Republicans have advanced bills that would require more auditing and vote recounts, according to Tucson.com.

    In both states, as in Iowa, lawmakers said the bills were meant to restore faith in election systems after the 2020 election. Some lawmakers advanced debunked conspiracy theories about the election, while others merely said there was mistrust in the public.

    “Millions and millions and millions of people believe there was fraud,” said Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City. “Most of us in my caucus, in the Republican caucus, believe the election was stolen.”

    There is no evidence of widespread fraud in Iowa or other states. Other Republican lawmakers said the elections bill in Iowa was not a reaction to fraud in the 2020 election, but rather an improvement to an already-successful system.

    “It is my view that government should be run like a business … You look at what you did right, what you did wrong, and you make improvements,” Sen. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing here today.”

    Katie Akin
    Reporter Katie Akin 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.