IOWA

 

Candidates

NOTES:

  1. IA Voter Registration Deadline. 24 days before Nov 3, 2020.

  2. Stage 3 -- No excuse required to vote by mail
  3. Online registration available

Voting Issues

NOVEMBER 2020

 

Theresa Greenfield lost

Cindy Axne won

JD Scholten lost

Rita Hart lost

Abby Finkenauer lost

OCTOBER 2020

• Iowa: Iowa's conservative-dominated state Supreme Court has upheld a law passed by Republicans earlier this year that bars county officials from using the state's voter database to fill in missing information on mail ballot applications such as a voter's "PIN" when their identity is otherwise known.

The law instead requires that officials individually contact voters to fill in missing data, increasing the turnaround time for processing and potentially risking that some voters will not receive their ballots in time. Republicans have used this law to throw out tens of thousands of partially pre-filled mail ballot applications that voters had already submitted.

• Iowa: The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that said that Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate exceeded his authority in barring county election officials from sending out absentee voter applications with information pre-filled.

Separately, the court said it would hear a challenge from Democrats against a law passed earlier this year by the state's Republican-run legislature prohibiting officials from using their databases to fill in missing information on applications they receive from voters, which they've done in past years. Under the new law, officials are required to contact voters by phone, email, or regular mail.

• Iowa: An Iowa state court has blocked a directive from Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate forbidding local election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications with voter information pre-filled. Pate has asked the conservative-dominated state Supreme Court to stay the ruling.

 

• Iowa: Iowa's conservative-dominated Supreme Court has sided with the Trump campaign against Democrats and let stand decisions that invalidated tens of thousands of absentee mail ballot request forms that voters had already submitted in populous Linn and Woodbury Counties, while a lower court tossed thousands of such applications from heavily Democratic Johnson County. The courts found that these applications, which local officials had sent with partially pre-filled information, violated state law and had to be re-sent to voters blank.

Relatedly, a lower state court has ruled against Democrats and Latino voter advocates by refusing to block the GOP's underlying law that makes it more difficult for election officials to administer absentee mail voting by prohibiting them from using the state's voter database to fill in missing information such as PIN for a voter's ID. Instead, officials must waste their limited time by having to contact potentially tens of thousands of such voters or more, risking some voters not getting mail ballots in time if at all.

Meanwhile, voting rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the GOP's restriction that only allows county election boards to set up ballot collection drop boxes on site at their offices. Plaintiffs want election officials to be able to establish drop boxes anywhere they see fit.

SEPTEMBER 2020

 

• Iowa: Officials in Woodbury County, one of three relatively sizable Iowa counties where Trump and Republicans are suing to invalidate absentee ballot requests that officials had sent with pre-filled information on the applications, have announced they will not appeal a recent state court ruling tossing out 14,000 requests that voters had already submitted. However, Democrats are separately waging their own lawsuit challenging the disqualification of pre-filled request forms, which is pending before a lower state court.

AUGUST 2020

• Iowa: National Democrats have filed a lawsuit in state court challenging GOP Secretary of State Paul Pate's directive to disqualify absentee mail ballot request forms that officials in a handful of Democratic-leaning counties had sent to voters with pre-filled information. This lawsuit comes after county judges in Linn and Woodbury Counties sided with the Trump campaign in separate litigation to invalidate their pre-filled absentee requests, which included 64,000 that had already been submitted by voters, while a third Trump lawsuit over pre-filled request forms in Johnson County remains pending.

Republican lawmakers passed a law earlier this year to enable the mailing of absentee applications to all voters statewide, but they prohibited pre-filled forms following their passage of a separate law that requires county officials to contact voters for missing information even when they could complete an application on a voter's behalf using the state's database.

Since one piece of information required is a state-issued voter "PIN," something that virtually no voter is likely to know, these laws will require county officials to waste their limited time and resources contacting voters. Furthermore, since the GOP wants to throw out absentee requests that have already been submitted, if these two county court decisions stand, it could create additional voter confusion among voters whose request submissions get invalidated.

• Iowa: Republicans have filed a trio of lawsuits in state court seeking to stop Democratic officials in three Iowa counties from sending applications for absentee mail ballots to all voters with pre-filled information using the state's voter registration database.

Republican lawmakers recently passed a law to enable the mailing of absentee applications to all voters statewide, but they prohibited pre-filled forms following their passage of a separate law that requires county officials to contact voters for missing information even when they could complete an application on a voter's behalf using the state's database.

Since one piece of information required is a state-issued voter "PIN," something that virtually no voter is likely to know, these laws will require county officials to waste their limited time and resources contacting voters. That will lead to delays that could cause some voters to not get their ballots on time if at all. Republicans are asking the court to throw out any pre-filled applications that have already been submitted by voters, risking additional voter confusion.

A separate lawsuit backed by Democrats and Latino voter advocates is ongoing in state court and seeks to block the law prohibiting county officials from using the state's database to fill in missing information.

 

• Iowa: On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds issued an executive order automatically restoring voting rights for citizens who have completed felony sentences, including parole or probation, except for those convicted of homicide offenses. As a result, Reynolds' order means that Iowa is no longer the only state in the country to ban people convicted of any felony from ever voting again (barring individual intervention by the governor), though people convicted of certain felonies are still permanently disenfranchised in Iowa and a handful of other states.

Reynolds' order comes after months of pressure by Black Lives Matter activists and after Republicans in the state Senate refused to pass a constitutional amendment making this change permanent, which Reynolds had advocated for and had cited as a reason for opposing an executive order until now. Iowa's last two Democratic governors also automatically restored voting rights until Reynolds' predecessor, fellow Republican Terry Branstad, revoked that order when he took office in 2011.

Importantly, Reynolds did not include what is effectively a poll tax requirement in her order even though she signed a law earlier this year that would have required affected citizens to pay off any court-ordered restitution to victims before regaining their rights. That law would only have come into effect if Senate Republicans had followed their House brethren in passing the constitutional amendment discussed above, but even if both chambers had approved it, they would have needed to do so again and voters would have had to pass it in a 2022 referendum before it could become law.

While Iowa is no longer the only state to impose an automatic lifetime ban on voting for any felony conviction, it will remain one of the most restrictive states. A number of other states in recent years have moved to restore voting rights to everyone not currently incarcerated, and they've generally enshrined these restorations in state law; this order, by contrast, could always be rolled back by a future governor. However, Reynolds' order for now mitigates an injustice that has had a sharply disparate impact on Black voters: A 2016 Sentencing Project analysis estimated that 1 in every 10 African Americans was disenfranchised, five times the rate of everyone else.

JULY 2020

 

Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate says he will send absentee ballot applications to all Iowa voters ahead of the November general election after a Republican-run panel of state legislators granted him permission to do so. Pate had issued a similar mailing before the state's June 2 primaries, but Republican lawmakers subsequently passed a law requiring Pate to obtain their approval first.

In the interim, officials in Iowa's seven largest counties, which collectively lean to the left of the state as a whole, began making preparations to send applications to their own voters. That may have prompted Republicans to act, lest right-leaning counties fail to follow suit.

However, GOP lawmakers also voted against allowing counties to send applications that are partially pre-filled, which two large counties had already said they wanted to do. Democrats called that a voter suppression move because the GOP recently passed a separate law prohibiting county officials from using the state's voter database to fill in missing info on an application form such as the PIN for voter ID if the voter's identity was otherwise knowable. The law requiring officials to contact voters instead, particularly when done by mail, will add delays that risk some voters not getting their ballots in time if at all.

Iowa: Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a budget bill into law that makes Iowa's voter ID regime more onerous and makes absentee voting more cumbersome for election officials to facilitate despite an expected surge in mail voting due to the pandemic.

The law adds a new requirement that voters present ID if they go to their county government offices to vote early in-person. A second provision requires absentee ballot applications to include the voter's "voter ID PIN," a state-issued four-digit number that few voters are likely aware of.

In addition, under the state's previous laws, county officials could verify voter identities using other information on their applications or the state's registration database, but this new law disallows that. Instead, officials would have to contact the voter individually to confirm their identity, which could cause significant delays in processing absentee requests and lead to voters not receiving their ballots in time to vote by mail.

APRIL 2020

• Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate says that he's considering the option of conducting November's general election entirely by mail. Previously, Pate said he'd mail absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter ahead of Iowa's June 2 downballot primaries. Pate says he considered making the primary all-mail but opted not to after talking to officials in Washington and Oregon, who described the long timeframes that had been needed to convert their states to mail voting.

MARCH 2020

• Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate is allowing absentee voting for Iowa's June 2 downballot primaries to begin on April 23, 11 days earlier than the statutory May 4 start date. Before the passage of a voter ID bill in 2017, this 40-day absentee period was the law in Iowa. Pate also postponed three elections for local office until July 7.

FEBRUARY 2020

 

Iowa: Iowa Republicans passed a bill out of state Senate committee that would ensure some citizens remain permanently barred from voting if the GOP-run legislature passes a future constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to people who have completed their sentences for a felony conviction.

Currently, Iowa is the only state to impose a lifetime ban for any felony, which can only be lifted if the governor individually restores a citizen's voting rights. However, the state House almost unanimously passed a constitutional amendment in 2019 to automatically restore voting rights upon completion of any prison, parole, or probation sentence for a felony conviction. That amendment died, however, after Republican senators balked.

Their newest bill would maintain this lifetime disenfranchisement thanks to a measure that is effectively a poll tax: requiring the payment of any court-ordered restitution to victims, similar to a measure passed by Florida Republicans last year. The bill would also require people convicted of the most serious offenses such as murder to win the governor's consent to regain their voting rights. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has very rarely exercised that power even though she could issue a blanket executive order restoring voting rights to everyone who has served their sentences.

©BOOMERS FOR DEMOCRACY