‘Tighten it Up’: Ernst Supports Republican Push to Shorten Early Voting in Iowa

Politics

DES MOINES, Iowa – U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said she is in favor of legislation currently making its way through the Iowa Legislature that would shorten the state’s early voting period.  

The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to reduce the early voting window from 29 days to 20 days. The bill passed with a 30-18 vote, only receiving support from Republicans.

Ernst said Iowa’s early voting period should be cut in half from what it is now. On WHO 13’s The Insiders, Political Director Dave Price asked Ernst if 29 days are too many for early voting and if she thinks that window should be reduced.   

“I think we should tighten it up,” Ernst said. “Probably a couple weeks would be enough.”  

Democrats far outpaced Republicans in early voting in the November election.

Republican lawmakers argue that changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of Iowa’s elections, even though there is no evidence of the state’s elections being fraudulent.

State Sen. Roby Smith, who is the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will establish uniform election rules across the state. The bill would also create stricter rules for returning absentee ballots, require polls in all elections to close an hour earlier at 8 p.m., and add the potential for criminal charges against county auditors who violate the state’s election rules.

Opponents of the bill include groups advocating for the elderly, labor unions, voters with disabilities, immigrants, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of Women Voters of Iowa, according to the Associated Press. These groups say the legislation would make voting more difficult for many people and create longer lines at the polls.

However, Republicans argue that previous voting restrictions have not hindered election turnout. They cited Iowa’s record turnout of nearly 1.7 million voters who cast ballots in the November election.

President Donald Trump won again in Iowa in November. Ernst won reelection in the Senate and Republicans Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks both won seats in Congress previously held by Democrats. Republicans also widened their majority in the Iowa Legislature. Despite these gains, some Republicans still promote unfounded claims that the November election was fraudulent.

State Sen. Jim Carlin, a Republican who recently launched his campaign for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Senate seat, said he still believes there was widespread voter fraud. “Most of us in the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen,” said Carlin.

Many allegations of election fraud have already been debunked and ruled out in court, and Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department did not uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election.

The Republican-controlled Iowa House is also expected to pass the bill on Wednesday. The legislation would then go to Gov. Kim Reynolds to be signed into law.

Associated Press reporting contributed to this story.

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