At the close of a three-hour-long debate highlighting clashes in the Iowa Capitol over former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 race, the state Senate passed a controversial elections bill along party lines.
The GOP bill, which reduces Iowa’s early voting period, imposes criminal charges on county auditors who break state law and shortens election day poll hours by an hour, among other measures, passed 30-18 Tuesday evening.
Democratic senators argued before voting on the amended legislation that Republicans would be lying to Iowans if they advanced the bill, perpetuating the debunked claim that the 2020 election saw widespread voting fraud.
One Republican senator who is currently seeking federal office admitted that “most of” the Iowa Republican caucus believes the election was “stolen.”
“Fraud is the worst kind of voter suppression,” Sen. Jim Carlin, who announced a primary challenge to Chuck Grassley this month, said. “77% of Republicans believe that there was fraud in this last election. Millions and millions and millions of people believe there was fraud.”
“Who believes that Joe Biden got 12 million more votes than Barack Obama on his best day? I don’t… President Obama won seats in the House of Representatives, President Trump won seats in the House of Representatives, President Biden—or Joe Biden, didn’t win any.”
Carlin also said in his five minute floor speech that there were instances of “dead people voting,” a conspiracy theory that has been overwhelmingly discredited.
“You can look this up, by the way,” he said. “I encourage you… [this bill] is going to do a lot of good things, and make the results, the outcome, of our elections have even more integrity than they did before.”
Democrat Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City followed Carlin’s floor speech with claims that Iowans have lost faith in election integrity because of some Republican messaging about election fraud, not because of Iowa state code.
“People have only lost faith in elections because Republicans have manufactured, fostered and encouraged this through silence, conspiracy theories and cult behavior,” he said.
After an expected debate in the House on Wednesday, lawmakers said they also expect the fast-tracked legislation to arrive on Republican Gov. Kim Reynold’s desk late tomorrow.
Republicans amended the legislation Tuesday to shorten Iowa’s early voting period by nine days, taking it from 29 days to 20. The original bill proposed an 18-day window. The amendment also moved up the state’s poll close time from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. for all elections.
The amendment would also mean that for absentee ballots to be counted, they in all but a few cases need to be in county auditor’s hands by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Currently, absentee ballots are counted after Election Day if they were sent even a day prior.
Four Democratic senators who offered amendments to modify recount procedures, expand voter registration systems, strengthen voting accessibility and make it more challenging to purge voter rolls were defeated along party lines.
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, a Democrat, said he’s been disheartened by how this bill has been jammed through by Republicans with little input from across the aisle– a strategy that he said indicates partisanship to Iowans.
“Some Iowans have been told that there were shady dealings in Philadelphia that have disenfranchised the votes of Iowans. Mr. President, that has not been proven in the court of law,” Wahls said.
“There are a lot of people who believe that our legislature needs to do more to secure our elections. And that is precisely why I am so disappointed in how this entire process has been handled. When Democrats and Republicans disagree on legislation, it sends a signal to the people of our state that the underlying issue is political, or partisan. And that is precisely why it is so disappointing that the majority has rejected several amendments from Democrats that would have improved this bill.”
by Isabella Murray
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