Capitol Update Week 7

House of Representatives Passes Election Integrity Law

This week the Iowa House of Representatives passed a robust election integrity and security bill. The election in 2020 saw record breaking turnout in the State of Iowa and with smooth administration due to Iowa’s strong election system. House File 590 (HF590) builds on Iowa’s strong track record of integrity and security when it comes to elections.

HF590 ensures the integrity of the election in several ways, but one of the most important is confirming that election officials are held to a high standard of performance and establishing recourse for when an elected official defies the laws of the state or does not act in the best interest of the voter. HF590 creates and strengthens election misconduct penalties for any elected official or person who willfully fails to conduct their election duties, fails to perform proper voter registration list maintenance, or interferes with a voter or authorized person at a polling location.

During the pandemic and as more and more Iowans are voting by absentee ballots, it is important that the accuracy and validity of each absentee ballot is secured. Each county auditor’s office will have a secure drop box that will be emptied and recorded at least 4 times a day. The drop boxes will be on county property, video surveillance will monitor all activity at the drop box.

The bill also changes the period for early absentee voting, early satellite voting, and early in person voting to 20 days before election day, giving Iowans 21 days to be able to cast their ballots in elections. With that change, Iowa will still have a longer early voting period than 26 other states. Additionally, the bill will conform poll closing times to 8pm for all elections/previously some elections had a close of 9pm while others had 8pm. Even while closing polls at 8pm, Iowa’s polls will stay open later than the national average of 7:30pm.

To ensure uniformity throughout Iowa, this bill will apply in law that only absentee ballots received by the county auditor before 8pm on election night will be counted. This will not affect military absentee ballots, anyone oversees, or who participates in the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program.

If a voter arrives to a polling location after polls are closed they are not allowed to vote, this bill applies the same to absentee voters. There are plenty of ways for a voter to plan to deliver their ballot with 21 days to vote and a multitude of options of for returning an absentee ballot. By enforcing a strict deadline for the absentee ballots, it guarantees that every county has the same standard for counting ballots. This policy is not unique, in fact 3 states who do mail voting only (Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon) use this standard for counting ballots.

The 2020 elections were extremely successful and saw record turnout, but that doesn’t mean that the Iowa Legislature should not continue to work hard to ensure that every Iowan’s vote counts in a fair and uniformed matter. This bill goes a long way to put best election practices into law to ensure the integrity of future elections.

House Unanimously Passes Emergency Medical Services Funding

On Tuesday of this week the House passed out HF 562. This bill is another tool that will allow our local governments to fund emergency medical services. Currently EMS district trustees are permitted to levy taxes based on the assessed value of all taxable land. The tax must be voted on and passed with a 60% majority. HF 562 will allow underfunded EMS districts to increase the amount leveed beyond what is currently allowed to better serve the community. The increase must be passed by a majority vote of the public. This legislation also requires that If the EMS district trustees are going to ask for additional tax they must create a district advisory council to assist in researching and assessing the service needs of the district. I think that this bill will be able to provide some much-needed financial relief for our local EMS.

 If you have further interest in these or any other bill in the House please contact me and I will do my best to try and keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number www.legis.iowa.gov.
 
Jones County Economic Development will be hosting a forum on Friday, February 26th at 12pm in the Anamosa Library. If you are interested in attending in person or online please reach out to Derek Lumsden at: director@jonescountydevelopment.com

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