Iowa’s 2020 election was one for the record books — with 1.7 million people marking ballots for offices from president of the United States to local soil conservation trustees.
It was an impressive turnout in Iowa — with 76 percent of the state’s eligible voters taking part in the great American democracy.
There were no allegations of election fraud or polling place shenanigans in Iowa. No one suggested people from local cemeteries were casting ballots.
We didn’t hear any claims Iowa voting machines had been rigged by nefarious forces. No one suggested counterfeit ballots were sneaked in.
So, it is worth asking this important question:
Why is the Iowa Legislature fast-tracking dramatic changes in the state’s election laws that will make it significantly more difficult for people to vote?
Many Iowans prefer to vote before Election Day — especially those who are elderly, or disabled, those who work in retail jobs where their work schedules are set at the last minute, or those people who are going to be out of state at college or away at a winter residence.
Lawmakers who are behind these changes that were unveiled last week prefer to talk about making our elections more secure. They like to speak about election integrity.
But they don’t offer any explanation how these proposed changes will improve election security or election integrity in Iowa. They avoid mentioning any of this because the real reason for these changes is hard to explain away.
It’s politics, plain and simple. Three-quarters of Iowa Democrats voted early last fall, while only half of Iowa Republicans were early voters, statistics from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate show.
Senator Jason Schultz, a Schleswig Republican, told reporters he supports Senate File 413 because, “It addresses the controversy that the country is going through right now.”
He claimed, without offering any evidence, that there were “shady dealings across the country” and that some states allow people “to game elections the way they did in cities like Philadelphia.”
Whether you accept former Attorney General William Barr’s assurances there were no widespread voting irregularities, or whether you choose to ignore the judges and Supreme Court justices who ruled against Donald Trump’s 60 challenges to the election outcome, this much is irrefutable:
The legislation now being considered in the Iowa Legislature will not stop any supposed “shady dealings” in our state, because there have been none. What the legislation will do, if approved and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds, is this:
•Reduce the time for early voting to 18 days before the election, from the current 29 days (and from the 40 days that had been allowed until 2017);
•Prohibit county auditors from mailing absentee ballots until mid-October (which, with slower deliveries by the U.S. Postal Service, creates concerns about ballots arriving too late to be counted);
•Stop county auditors from mailing absentee ballot request forms for voters to fill out and return (which creates problems for those voters without Internet access and a means to download and print a blank request form);
•Reduce the time during which voters can request an absentee ballot to late August, from the current early July;
•Prohibit anyone other than the voter, an immediate family member or a caregiver from returning an absentee voter’s completed ballot (which creates problems for voters without access to a car).
Cerro Gordo County Auditor Adam Wedmore told reporters last week, “Iowa has always led the way with strong election security, great voter participation, and has been an example to other states of how elections should be run. These bills do not appear to be based on voter security or election integrity and instead will actually limit voter access, which is a concern.”
As if the bill were not bad enough already, there is one more provision is tucked away in there that should raise the blood pressure of every Iowan of every political persuasion, rural and urban:
If you do not participate in one general election --- those are held in November of even-numbered years — the legislation would require the county auditor to mark you as an “inactive” voter. That designation begins the process that could lead to your being kicked out as a registered voter.
•Voting is a right. Americans are not required to vote. We can pick and choose which elections we participate in. And some of us miss an election because we are ill or caring for a sick loved one or are called away at the last minute on urgent.
•It is one thing if you move onto the “inactive” list because election mail to the address on your voter registration record is returned to the county auditor’s office. But it’s an entirely different matter if officials begin the process of cancelling your voter registration simply because you decide to sit out an election.
•The changes Republican leaders are pushing in the Iowa Legislature remind me of what Voltaire, the French philosopher, said long ago: “Common sense is not so common.”
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Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com. Readers can offer their opinions on this issue through letters to the editor in the Bloomfield Democrat.