Iowa’s Brand New Voter Suppression Law Immediately Smacked With Lawsuit

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 25: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)
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March 9, 2021 11:03 a.m.

A day after Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed a highly restrictive voting bill into law, a civil rights group has already filed a lawsuit, saying that the law puts an undue burden on Iowans’ constitutional right to vote.

The lawsuit was filed in district court by lawyers including Marc Elias, who has come to prominence for his nationwide election lawsuits representing Democratic entities, on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa. The defendants are the Iowa secretary of state and attorney general.

“What makes the Bill baffling — and fatally unconstitutional — is that it lacks any cognizable justification for these burdensome effects on the franchise,” the lawsuit said. “The Bill is largely a grab-bag of amendments and new restrictions that lack any unifying theme other than making both absentee and election day voting more difficult for lawful Iowa voters.”

The lawsuit seeks to keep a significant portion of the law from being implemented and enforced.

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“The Bill is an exercise in voter suppression, one disguised as a solution for a problem that exists only in the fertile imaginations of its creators,” the lawsuit said. 

The law, which Elias called the “first major suppression law since the 2020 election,” slashes the early voting window and shutters polls an hour early on Election Day. It shrinks the timeline for absentee ballots to be sent out and returned, and limits who can return an absentee ballot on someone else’s behalf, with criminal penalties for those who violate the new law. 

It specifically targets county auditors, the officials who run elections in Iowa, three of whom came under heavy fire in the 2020 cycle for sending partially filled-in absentee ballot application forms to voters to facilitate a fast turnaround. The Iowa Supreme Court, less than a month before Election Day, invalidated tens of thousands of absentee ballot requests. 

The new law prohibits auditors from unilaterally setting up satellite early voting sites and from sending out absentee ballot request forms unless a voter requests one. It makes it a felony for auditors not to follow guidance from the Iowa secretary of state, currently a Republican, and establishes fines up to $10,000 for any “technical infractions.”

It is part of a national wave of suppressive voter laws championed by state-level Republicans after the extremely high-turnout election cycle in 2020. “As of February 19, 2021, state lawmakers have carried over, prefiled, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which is tracking the suppressive bills. 

Read the lawsuit here:

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