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Grade TL;DR

Unfortunately, Iowa regressed on a number of pro-voter measures in 2021 after the state saw record voter turnout in 2020. The Legislature rolled back the early voting period, shortened absentee ballot request timelines, shortened polling place hours, and limited third party ballot returns, among other anti-voter provisions. Due to these substantial anti-voter changes that will further decrease access to the polls in the Hawkeye State, Iowa received an F on this year’s progress report.

Looking Back

Where Iowa Started in 2020

  • Automatic Voter Registration: No
  • Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
  • Same-Day Registration: Yes
  • Restoration of Rights: Some Lifetime Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: Yes
  • Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
  • ID Requirements: ID Requested, but not Required

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Iowa as of 2020, we considered the state a middle tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other middle tier states.

How Our Tier Compares:

  • COVI (2020): 24th
  • EPI Score (2020): 3rd
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 6/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): FAIR

2021: Two Years Ago

Legislative Action

After Iowa saw record high voter turnout in 2020, the Iowa Legislature responded by passing anti-voter legislation that substantially decreased Iowans’ access to the polls. They also passed legislation that included one small pro-voter change.

  • S 413 shortens the early voting period by nine days, shortens the absentee ballot request period, shortens the ballot receipt deadline to the close of polls — as opposed to the Monday after election day for ballots postmarked by election day — limits third-party ballot returns, requires polling places to close at 8 pm — one hour earlier than previously allowed — targets voters for removal based on failure to vote in one election, shortens the voter registration deadline for non-polling place registration by 5 days, removes county discretion to offer satellite voting centers, prohibits election officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications, and allows drop boxes, but limits them to one per county. This law is currently the subject of ongoing litigation but remains in effect at this time.
  • S 568 expands the list of allowable family members that may return a voter’s ballot, but it removes the option for caregivers to return ballots and needlessly complicates the process that allows disabled and blind voters to designate a ballot returner. The bill also includes a very small pro-voter improvement that requires the state election commission to establish an absentee ballot tracking website.

2022: This Past Year

Legislative Action

Fortunately, after the Legislature made substantial anti-voter changes in 2021, it did not pass any significant election-related laws during the 2022 session.

Executive Action

  • Recently, Secretary Pate launched the “Election Security in Iowa” website to help combat the spread of election misinformation and disinformation in the state.