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Iowa House will hold a public hearing on bills to restrict voting Monday evening

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The State Capitol Building in Des Moines — Drew Tarvin

The Iowa House of Representatives has scheduled an online public hearing at 5 p.m. on Monday for the election bill that was fast-tracked through both the House and Senate last week.

HF 590, formerly HSB 213, along with its companion bill in the Senate, which was SSB 1199 before being renumbered SF 413, was introduced on Tuesday last week, and by Thursday evening had passed both a subcommittee and State Government Committee, making it eligible for a floor vote this week.

The bills would sharply limit the early voting period, strip away much of the local control of elections, make it easier to remove people from voting rolls and make local election officials pay thousands of dollars in fines if they commit a “technical infraction.” It would also make it harder for candidates to qualify to be on the ballot for statewide and federal office.

Notably the changes that make it harder for candidates to qualify for the ballot do not apply to members of the legislature.

The bill has advanced with only support from Republicans.

Republican backers of the bill in both the House and Senate have invoked the phony claims of Donald Trump and his supporters that widespread fraud occurred during the 2020 presidential election. No actual proof of such fraud has been produced, and every state and federal court that heard the more than 60 lawsuits Trump brought following the election has dismissed his arguments as baseless.

None of the members of the Iowa Legislature pushing the bill have claimed there was any wrong-doing during the election in Iowa. Sen. Jason Schultz invoked debunked claims of large-scale fraud “in cities such as Philadelphia” while promoting the bill and House Speaker Pat Grassley cited false claims of misconduct in the recent Georgia election as a reason of voting for it. Even if the nonexistent problem they cite were real, none of the bill’s supporters have explained how making it harder to vote early or vote by mail in Iowa, or any of the other changes to Iowa’s election systems brought by the bills, will address problems in other states.

The proposed legislation is opposed by the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, which represents the officials who administer elections in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, as well as by groups ranging from the Iowa League of Women Voters to AARP Iowa to the ACLU of Iowa.

“If you asked me to sum it up in two words, it’s voter suppression,” Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert told a national news site when asked about the bill. “There is so much garbage in there it’s unreal.”

Only two organizations have registered in favor of the bill. One is a Florida-based nonprofit that promotes policies favored by conservative politicians, and the other is a Des Moines-based organization led by an attorney who represented the Trump campaign and the Iowa Republican Party when both sued three county auditors for mailing out absentee ballot requests where some information was pre-filled in an effort to make getting a ballot easier for voters during the pandemic.

The public comment page for the House bill already had more than 500 written comments as of Monday morning, and fewer than 10 of those comments were in support of the bill.

The public hearing on the bill will be streamed online. Anyone wishing to participate can register on the Iowa Legislature’s website.

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