GOP lawmaker wants to make it harder to vote by mail as more people do it


Mail-in voting increased by 1,000% from 2016 in Iowa's June primary.

A Republican state senator in Iowa has introduced legislation to make it harder for citizens to vote by mail this November, days after the state saw a dramatic increase in absentee voting in its June 2 primary.

On Friday, State Sen. Roby Smith attempted to attach a 30-page amendment to an otherwise non-controversial bill "dictating the use of county seals," according to local CBS affiliate KGAN.

The amendment would, among other things, limit the secretary of state's authority to mail voters absentee ballot applications, even during a health crisis such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


The legislation would specifically bar the secretary's office from mailing absentee ballot applications unless requested by a voter.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, mailed absentee ballot applications for the June primary to every voter back in April. Following that action, overall voter turnout increased to 24%, up from 15% in 2016.

Further, 411,000 of the 524,000 votes cast in 2020 were submitted by mail, a 1,000% increase in absentee voting compared to 2016, the Hill reported.

Smith's Democratic colleagues, who are in the minority in the state Senate, swiftly criticized the amendment.

Democratic State Sen. Tony Bisignano called the attempt to modify the original bill, which had passed the House unanimously, "beyond the pale."

"So, I'm not gonna support this, ever [...]," he said.

One county auditor questioned the timing of the amendment.

"Why are we coming out of one of the most successful elections, across the state, in Linn County, why are we doing this? Why are we being punished for what appears to be a very fantastic election from turnout and the way it was run?" said Joel Miller of Linn County, where some 85% of the ballots were absentee, according to KGAN.

The State Association of County Auditors also weighed in, the outlet reported, asking legislators in a letter to reject Smith's proposal "out of respect to the hundreds of thousands of Iowa voters who just exercised their rights in the most basic act of democratic government, without having to choose between their rights and their health."

Iowa could be a key battleground state this November. President Barack Obama carried the state in 2008, and Republicans carried it in 2012 and 2016.

In addition to the presidential race, Iowa will host a closely-watched Senate race, with first-term incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst, a staunch Trump supporter, facing off with Democratic nominee Theresa Greenfield.

A recent poll showed Greenfield with a narrow 2-point lead.

Republicans at both the state and federal level have waged war on vote-by-mail in recent months as more places seek to implement it as an option to in-person voting, in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Trump himself has been vehemently opposed to making absentee voting more accessible, claiming without proof that mail-in voting constitutes voter fraud.


There is no evidence of such widespread fraud, according to experts at the Brennan Center for Justice, either with in-person or absentee voting.

The center noted in April that five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington — already conduct elections primarily by mail, and none has had any significant issues since adopting the system.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.