70% Of Iowa Republican Lawmakers Voted Absentee In June Primary

Upon seeing record-shattering turnout in Iowa’s June primary thanks largely to widespread absentee voting, Iowa Republicans returned to the Statehouse intent on making sure that wouldn’t happen again. After a record 531,131 Iowans cast a primary ballot, Republican legislators used the abbreviated legislative session to pass new restrictions on the Secretary of State and to make filling out an absentee request form more difficult.

This morning, Republicans on the state’s Legislative Council enforced their newly-imposed oversight of the Secretary of State, killing a Democratic proposal to fund a statewide absentee request mailer.

But a review of the state voter file that Starting Line obtained today shows that those same Republican lawmakers enjoyed taking advantage of Iowa’s early vote option during the pandemic.

Thirty-seven of the Iowa House’s 53 Republicans, or 70%, voted absentee in the primary. Twenty-two of the state’s 32 Republican senators, or 69%, also cast an absentee ballot.

There’s a little bit of a distinction here to know. In Iowa, you can vote early by mail or in-person at your county auditor’s office (or sometimes at early satellite locations, but those weren’t happening during the pandemic). When you vote early in-person, what you’re filling out is an absentee ballot. So either way, voting early is technically recorded by the state as voting “absentee,” but “absentee” doesn’t necessarily mean you voted by mail.

Looking through the voter file data, it seems several of the Republican legislators may have voted early absentee in-person because it lists the day they requested an absentee ballot as the same day they voted early. Local records of this can sometimes vary, but that’s most likely what that indicates.

Six of the 37 House Republicans likely voted absentee in-person, while one Republican senator did.

That still leaves a strong majority of Republican lawmakers who voted in the primary by mail, at least some of whom probably requested their absentee ballot from the secretary of state’s mailing.

Among the Republicans who voted by mail are Speaker Pat Grassley, Senate President Charles Schneider, and all three of the GOP state legislators who are running for Congress — Randy Feenstra, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson. President Donald Trump has repeatedly discouraged voting by mail, even though he also does it himself.

Many election officials had praised Secretary of State Paul Pate’s decision to mail out absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters in order to help people vote safely from home during the pandemic and reduce the pressure on in-person voting sites. Overall, 82.5% of Democrats who voted in the primary did so by absentee, while 71.6% of Republicans did.

Given that the pandemic will almost certainly still be raging on come November, it’s expected that a very high percentage of Iowans will want to vote absentee then, as well. But Republican legislators felt merely sending out the request forms was an overreach of power for Pate.

So, in the final days of the abbreviated 2020 legislative session, Republicans quickly pushed through legislation that would force the Secretary of State to seek the Legislative Council’s approval were he to want to send out requests for the November election. Today, the Republicans on that council killed a request by Democrats to do just that.

On a party-line, 13 to 9 vote, Republicans shot down Sen. Pam Jochum’s proposal to let Pate utilize federal CARES Act funds to pay for an absentee request mailing.

Jochum’s constituents in Dubuque, however, will be getting a mass request form mailer. The local county auditor there has decided to send one out again to all voters. That’s one aspect of this that Republicans have not seemed to think through — local Democratic auditors will likely send out requests in urban, Democratic counties, while those in rural ones may not, taking their party’s cues on the matter.

Though it’s not clear that Republican legislators even knew what the bill they passed did, at least according to one Democratic lawmaker’s remarks from the meeting:

Below we list the Republican legislators who voted absentee in the June 3 primary. We put an asterisk next to the ones who may have voted early absentee in-person, and we have bolded the names of those on the Legislative Council.

State Senators (district, home county)

Jerry Behn, SD 24, Boone

Michael Breitbach, SD 28, Clayton

Waylon Brown, SD 26, Mitchell

Chris Cournoyer, SD 49, Scott

Dan Dawson, SD 8, Pottawattamie

Jeff Edler, SD 36, Marshall

Randy Feenstra, SD 2, Sioux

Julian Garrett, SD 13, Warren

Tom Greene, SD 44, Des Moines

Dennis Guth, SD 4, Hancock

Craig Johnson*, SD 32, Buchanan

Tim Kapucian, SD 38, Benton

Carrie Koelker, SD 29, Dubuque

Mark Lofgren, SD 46, Muscatine

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, SD 41, Wapello

Zach Nunn, SD 15, Polk

Ken Rozenboom, SD 40, Mahaska

Charles Schneider, SD 22, Dallas

Mark Segebart, SD 6, Crawford

Tom Shipley, SD 11, Adams

Zach Whiting, SD 1, Dickinson

Dan Zumbach, SD 48, Delaware


State Representatives (district, county)

Robert Bacon*, HD 48, Story

Michael Bergan, HD 55, Winneshiek

Jacob Bossman, HD 6, Woodbury

Gary Carlson, HD 91, Muscatine

Dave Deyoe, HD 49, Story

Cecil Dolecheck, HD 24, Ringgold

Dean Fisher, HD 72, Tama

Joel Fry, HD 27, Clarke

Tedd Gassman, HD 7, Winnebago

Pat Grassley, HD 50, Butler

Stan Gustafson, HD 25, Madison

Lee Hein, HD 96, Jones

Ashley Hinson, HD 67, Linn

Dustin Hite, HD 79, Mahaska

Steven Holt*, HD 18, Crawford

Daniel Huseman, HD 3, Cherokee

Megan Jones, HD 2, Clay

David Kerr, HD 88, Louisa

Jarad Klein, HD 78, Washington

John Landon, HD 37, Polk

Brian Lohse, HD 30, Polk

David Maxwell, HD 76, Poweshiek

Ann Meyer, HD 9, Webster

Joe Mitchell, HD 84, Henry

Gary Mohr, HD 94, Scott

Norlin Mommsen*, HD 97, Clinton

Sandy Salmon, HD 63, Black Hawk

Mike Sexton, HD 10, Calhoun

Jeff Shipley*, HD 82, Van Buren

David Sieck, HD 23, Mills

Ray Sorensen, HD 20, Adair

Phil Thompson, HD 47, Greene

Jon Thorup*, HD 28, Marion

Linda Upmeyer, HD 54, Cerro Gordo

John Wills*, HD 1, Dickinson

Matt Windschitl, HD 17, Harrison

Louis Zumbach, HD 95, Linn



by Pat Rynard
Posted 7/1/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.

3 Comments on "70% Of Iowa Republican Lawmakers Voted Absentee In June Primary"

  • Once again we see the importance of voting at all costs. We MUST win back as many seats in local, state and national elections to bring fairness and equity to the voting process. VOTE!

  • (from the article) – “Randy Feenstra, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson”. I wonder where they side on this issue? (I think, that by their votes, the legislators, at least made it clear that they don’t want to give people the ease of voting that they had. (sigh)
    Or were Feenstra, Meeks and Hinson among those who, apparently (thank some luck stars!) didn’t really read the bill before voting for it?

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