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Gov. Reynolds signs bill limiting early voting into law, here’s what’s changing

Reynolds RNC

DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) -- Governor Kim Reynolds has signed into law a bill that drastically changes how elections operate in the state.

The bill passed through the Iowa House on Feb. 24, sending the bill to Reynolds' desk.

The bill, authored by Cedar County Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann, cuts down the early voting period as well as the time to request an absentee ballot, limits county auditors, changes voting hours, and more.

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Reynolds released this statement regarding the voting act:

“It’s our duty and responsibility to protect the integrity of every election. 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. All of these additional steps promote more transparency and accountability, giving Iowans even greater confidence to cast their ballot.” 

Governor Kim Reynolds

The law will cut the state's mail and in-person early voting period from 29 days to 18 days just four years after Republicans whittled it down from 40 days. It will also reduce the absentee ballot request period from 120 days to 70 days before an election.

In addition, polls will now close earlier on election day. From now on they will close at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.

As the bill progressed, parties were split in their messaging surrounding the legislation. Republicans said its about election integrity while Democrats called it an example of voter suppression.

Both parties released statements after Gov. Reynolds signed the bill.

"This is what leadership looks like. I applaud Gov. Reynolds and legislative Republicans for showing Iowans that the GOP is listening to their concerns and defending the integrity of our states' election system. While our election systems were already strong, this bill improves upon the work Republicans did in 2017 when they passed Voter ID laws. The 2020 election showed us where shortfalls in our system existed and Iowa Republicans created solutions targeted at fixing those shortfalls. Democrat spin is strong and wild, but truth shines through."

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann

"Iowans have always had a proud tradition of participating in the democratic process with accessible and secure elections. Today, Kim Reynolds and Iowa Republicans have made it more difficult for Iowans, especially seniors and those with disabilities, to be part of this process and have their voices heard. Despite Iowans and local election officials’ overwhelming opposition, Kim Reynolds and Republicans in the legislature fast-tracked these dramatic changes. This isn’t about improving our election process, it’s about continuing the Republican Party’s outrageous lies and attacks on the democratic process across the country. Iowans will see these changes for what they really are, an attempt to suppress the voice of Iowans and make it more difficult for our friends and neighbors to hold elected officials accountable."

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rep. Ross Wilburn

More than 1.7 million Iowans voted in the 2020 election, shattering the state's record with nearly 76% of registered voters participating. More than a million Iowans cast their votes early in person or by mail, seeking to avoid crowded polling places in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa's 99 county auditors will no longer be allowed to send absentee ballot request forms to voters. Voters can still obtain forms on their own and send them in, but they will not be able to receive a request form directly in the mail from their county auditor.

Republican groups, including the Trump campaign, successfully sued during the 2020 election after county auditors in Linn, Johnson, and Woodbury counties mailed request forms with some pre-filled information like name, address and driver's license number.

Only the Iowa Secretary of State will be allowed to send absentee ballot request forms with the approval of the Iowa Legislature, or the Legislative Council. Any forms sent to voters would have to be left completely blank.

Absentee ballots must now be delivered to the county auditor's office by the close of polls on election day, otherwise it won't be counted. Previously, a ballot would be valid if postmarked prior to election day.

The Governor also signed these bills into law:

  • HF200: An act relating to the military code and duty performed by a member of the United States Coast Guard.  
  • HF235An act relating to service charges on consumer credit transactions.  
  • HF232: An act relating to the crime of disorderly conduct and making penalties applicable.    
  • SF240: An act relating to the creation, administration, and termination of custodial trusts.  
  • SF239: An act relating to proper parties in causes of actions following the death of persons entitled or liable to such causes of actions and including applicability provisions.   
  • SF231: An act regarding driving privileges of persons issued a special minor’s driver’s license, and making penalties applicable.   
  • SF173:  An act relating to trusts, including requirements for certifications of trust and the general order of abatement.  
  • SF343: An act relating to authorized access to certain confidential records by employees of the Department of Corrections, a judicial district Department of Correctional Services, and the Board of Parole.    
  • SF285: An act relating to suspension of a student’s participation in the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship program.    
  • SF130: An act relating to a temporary exception to a limitation compensation for a member of a board of directors of a school corporation, and including effective date provisions.   
  • HF386: An act striking certain reporting requirements related to non profit school organizations established by school districts.   
  • HF308An act relating to eligibility requirements for students under the senior year plus program and including effective date and applicability provisions.   
  • HF283: An act creating the criminal offense of defrauding a drug or alcohol test and providing penalties.     
  • HF231: An act relating to a special sentence for sexual abuse committed during a burglary.  
  • SF314An act relating to approval of executive branch employee travel claims.     
  • HF418An act relating to property tax levies, exemptions, classifications, assessment limitations, and administration, and including effective date and applicability provisions.   
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