DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday signed into law sweeping legislation that will significantly alter Iowa’s elections, including by reducing the amount of time for early voting.
The legislation was rushed through the law-making process by majority Republicans — it was introduced and passed by the Iowa Legislature in just more than a week — and became law with only Republican support.
Under the new law:
• The polls will close on Election Day at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.
• The number of days to vote early is reduced from 29 to 20. (Until two years ago, Iowa’s early voting period had been 40 days.)
• Absentee ballots cannot be mailed to voters until 20 days before the election, down from 29 days, with limited exceptions.
• Local officials can only mail out an absentee ballot request form if the voter requests one.
• There can be only one drop box per county for dropping off completed early ballots.
• Local elections officials face stricter requirements before setting up a satellite early voting location.
• Voters must return and submit their own early ballot, with limited exceptions.
• Early ballots must be received by the county auditor by Election Day. With limited exceptions, early ballots that arrive after Election Day will not be counted, no matter when they were mailed.
• A voter’s registration status is changed to inactive after missing just one election.
• County auditors face stronger penalties, including a Class “D” felony, for violating elections laws.
Under the new law, Iowa’s early voting window is shortened to just less than the national average. However, the shortened time in which absentee ballots can be mailed out to voters puts Iowa in the bottom handful of states.
“It’s our duty and responsibility to protect the integrity of every election,” Reynolds said in a statement. “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.”
Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann said the new law builds on Republican-led efforts in recent years to require identification when voting.
“I applaud Gov. Reynolds and legislative Republicans for showing Iowans that the GOP is listening to their concerns and defending the integrity of our state’s election system,” Kaufmann said in a statement.
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Ross Wilburn accused Republicans of attacking the democratic voting process.
“Iowans have always had a proud tradition of participating in the democratic process with accessible and secure elections," Wilburn said in a statement. "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.”