Iowa Republicans have approved new limits on who can deliver a ballot on a voter’s behalf.
Legislators approved the measures in a party-line vote late Wednesday, just weeks after Iowa became one of the first states to take action to tighten other aspects of election security, including when ballots can be turned in and how voter rolls are maintained.
More than 1 million Iowans voted by absentee ballot in November, a record attributed in part to the pandemic and efforts by election officials to encourage voters to cast ballots at home.
Republican Sen. Roby Smith, one of the bill’s authors, said ballots are secure once in the custody of election officials but that absentee ballots had few safeguards.
“When it comes to ballot harvesting, anybody can just walk up and grab it under what was the previous law,” Smith said.
“There’s no security when someone can knock on your door and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll return your ballot.’ You don’t know who it is and they can open it up, they can change the vote, they can throw it away, they can shred it.”
Democrats said the measure was unnecessary because voter fraud is rare in Iowa and the last election had almost no problems.
“I’m tired of this. … Your noses are getting longer,” Democratic Sen. Tony Bisignano said during floor debate.
“Seven million votes separated our candidates. I’ve not seen a hundred people charged with election fraud. If it was so rampant, we ought to be seeing it on a daily basis and we’re not, so why do we play this game?”
Ballot harvesting has come under intense scrutiny this year from Republicans who argue the practice is rife with potential problems.
Ballot collection laws vary by state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 26 states allow voters to designate someone to return their ballot for them and 10 states allow ballots to be returned by family members. Thirteen states don’t have laws specifying who can return a ballot.
The Iowa measure says someone can deliver a ballot for another voter only if they live in the same home or are immediate family.
It specifies that to deliver a ballot for a blind or disabled voter, a person must register as a delivery agent.
The delivery agent must be a registered voter and cannot be an employer of the voter or someone affiliated with the voter’s employer, cannot be a union representative and cannot be someone connected to a political party, candidate or committee.
The delivery agent cannot deliver more than two ballots for another voter in any single election and must sign paperwork acknowledging that providing false information is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the first set of restrictions into law and is expected to sign the new voting changes.
The other law shortened the early voting period from 29 to 20 days and required most mail ballots to be received by Election Day, rather than counting votes postmarked by Election Day that arrive by noon on the Monday following the election.
It also required voting sites to close at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. and banned county election officials from sending out absentee ballot request forms unless requested.
Voters will be removed from active voting lists if they miss a general election and don’t report a change in address or register as a voter again.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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