Initial analysis of GOP’s latest attack on Iowa voters

A same-day analysis of the Iowa Republicans’ last-day-of-session voter suppression bill.

The key section is Ballot Courier Language – Operation 11

SF 568 – Public Measures/Elections Changes – Original Bill Summary

First passed Senate: 30 -17 (March 17); Passed House: 54-33; Final passage in Senate: 29-17 (May 19)

SF 568 relates to the conduct of elections, including nominations and procedures for proposed amendments to the Iowa Constitution. Key provisions of the bill include:

Public Measures/Elections Changes: The bill adds the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of an even-numbered year as an available date for a county to hold a special election on a public measure. This does not apply to cities or school districts.

Constitutional Amendments/Petitions: The bill requires the constitutional convention question, which is required to be submitted every decade, to be treated the same as a public measure on a ballot.

Holding Two Offices/Vacancies: The bill allows an elected official to be elected to and simultaneously serve in a second office for not more than 30 days.Under the bill, if a person is elected to multiple incompatible offices and doesn’t resign from one, the vacancy will be in the first office to which the person was elected. Under current law, a vacancy occurs in all of the offices to which the person was elected.The bill includes an effective date of January 1, 2022, for sections of the division relating to ballot vacancies.

Filing/Withdrawal Deadlines: The bill changes the deadline for the filing and withdrawal of nomination papers for primary elections, as well as for filing objections to the nominations of candidates. The bill changes the timeline for the replacement of a candidate who withdraws from a primary or general election or dies.The bill requires a ballot for president and vice president of the United States to disclose that a vote for such candidates is a vote for the slate of electors selected by the organization nominating such candidates.

After Election Activities (House amended this section): The bill  now requires when ballots are returned to the auditor the memory device used by voting equipment shall be returned to the auditor by two precinct election officials of different political parties, by law enforcement, or by a person designated by the commissioner. The printed results and memory device shall be returned in a sealed envelope with signature of all board members of the precinct place across the seal so envelop cannot be opened without breaking the seal. 

Secretary of State: The bill requires the SOS to order election audits prior to all elections other than general elections. This provision of the bill takes effect January 1, 2022.The bill requires the SOS to develop an Internet application to allow voters to track their absentee ballot requests and ballots by February 26, 2024. The system must also inform a voter of an error in the voter’s application or ballot that requires correction.
[3/17: 30-17  (No: Democrats; Excused: Goodwin, Hogg, Nunn)]

Amendment H-1535 (compromise between House and Senate Republicans)

Standing in Court – Operation 1

Gives political parties and non-political parties standing to bring certain actions in court, and gives them standing to intervene in certain actions brought by other persons.

Nomination Papers – Operation 3

The amendment makes multiple changes to signature requirements for county and city office nomination papers.

Voter Registration Cancellation – pg 4

Prohibits sending a voter from being sent a notice and return card for the purpose of cancelling or making a voter inactive if the registered voter was not 18 years old for the general election.

Strikes “Public Measures” from the bill – Operation  5 

School, City, County elections and any public measure election held in  March or September: Not less than four days and not more than 20 days before an election, an auditor must publish notice containing a list of candidates and public measures to be voted upon. Costs for a notification sent or posted pursuant to this section may be charged to the entity requesting the public measure. For an election to approve the issuance of a bond, the bill requires auditors to send notification to all voters not later than 20 days before the election. The notification must include time and date of election. Estimated costs for this mailing could reach $153,000 in additional costs per election.

Provision Ballot – Operation 7

Clarifies that the new absentee ballot deadline does not apply to those who are eligible to reconcile their provisional ballots.

Absentee Request Forms – Operation 10

Requires voter to date and sign absentee ballot requests forms.

Satellite Voting – Operation 10

The amendment allows a valid petition for satellite voting to be rejected within four days if any of the following apply:

  1. The site is not accessible to elderly and disabled voters.
  2. The site has physical limitation that make it impossible to meet ballot security and secret voting.
  3. The owner of the site refuses.
  4. After a reasonable effort, the auditor cannot find the staff to ensure compliance with law.

The other reasons listed for a reason that a petition can be denied include if the petition asks for satellite voting location in a city runoff election and a special election is held between the date of the regular city election and the city run-off election.  A petition can also be denied if the owner of the site of the location is demanding payment.

If a county auditor receives two petitions for the same precinct the auditor is allowed to establish only one satellite voting location.

Ballot Courier Language – Operation 11

The amendment clarifies who can return a ballot for a registered voter. The person must be a registered voter in Iowa. A person can be an immediate family member which is defined as a someone in the within the fourth degree of consanguinity which extends out to a first cousin once removed or great-great grandparent. The delivery agent can only return a ballot so long as the person they are delivering for cannot deliver the ballot on their own due to blindness or disability.

A person can NOT deliver a ballot for someone if they are the voters’ employer, an officer or agent of the registered voters union, or a person acting as an actual or implied agent for a political party, or a candidate or candidate’s committee.

A delivery agent must fill out a form or receipt as prescribed by the Secretary of State.  A delivery agent can only deliver two ballots per election.   The delivery agent can NOT return the ballot to a mailbox or drop box and must return it to the county auditor’s office and must present an ID and must sign a statement saying they are eligible to return the ballot.

Technical Stuff

  • Operation 4 – state register determines date of audit not county auditor
  • Operation 6 – adds “facsimile” of county seal
  • Operation 8 – Strikes Sec. 31 – Return and preservation of ballots
  • Operation 9 – Strikes Sec. 33 – Return of election register
  • Operations 12 – 20 –  technical stuff.