Iowa committee recommends passage of sweeping election bill

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa Senate State Government Committee recommended approval of a bill that would ban ranked-choice voting and prevent challenges to the eligibility of federal candidates.

Senate Study Bill 3161, sponsored by Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, would also ban drop boxes for ballots.

Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, asked that at least one drop box be allowed in each county as auditors said a number of funds are invested in the boxes and the cameras.

“They are extremely secure and they help a lot of Iowans,” Weiner said. “They help a lot of people who may have a disability and don’t want to get out their vehicle. They help a lot of folks who may have a little kid or who are not well or just older Iowans who don’t want to have to get out and go into the auditor’s office. I have maintained that certainly that drop box that exists in a number of counties is more secure than your mailbox or mine.”

The bill would also limit challenges to a candidate’s eligibility to appear on a ballot. The parameters would include a candidate’s age, citizenship or residency requirements and the legal sufficiency of the nominating petition.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Trump’s candidacy filed by Colorado residents in what they call an “insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I would suggest that the language on that is probably overly broad in that it would impact all elections,” Weiner said. “My suggestion would be that we codify it here, whatever the Supreme Court of the United States decides in the current case so that for example of they decide that you can’t take a presidential candidate off the ballot because you can’t have one state affecting the election for the entire country, that wouldn’t apply to state-level federal elections.”

Weiner said county auditors are also concerned about the bill’s effective date, which is July 1, 2024. Many auditors purchased ballot envelopes in advance and 96 out of 99 counties use the same vendor, she said. The bill requires changes to the wording on the envelope.

“If you are going to add an envelope in there it’s going to make it extremely difficult for a presidential election,” Weiner said. “I think it would be great to do a trial run for this when we do local elections.”

Some Iowans are concerned about the ban on ranked-choice voting.

“Banning a policy that doesn’t even exist in Iowa yet is pointless and counterproductive,” said Matt Wetstein, a member of the group Better Ballot Iowa, in an online comment. “This legislature should strive to give municipalities and the people of Iowa more local control and more control over their vote, not less.”

The bill passed the committee, with all Democrats voting against it. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

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