There is no federal or statewide race this fall, but Iowa voters in many cities will still head to the polls for municipal and school elections and county auditors hope they are informed about sweeping changes the state adopted this year dealing with voting.
In March, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill, which, among other things, reduces the early voting period from 29 days down to 20. And, with a few exceptions, mail-in ballots will no longer be accepted after Election Day. They have to arrive by the time polls close that day.
Ryan Dokter, the auditor of Sioux County, said without the typical barrage of campaign messaging, voters might not be aware of the changes. “City [and] school elections tend to be a little bit lower turnout, unless there’s something that really gets people excited to be voting,” Dokter observed. “These kind of sneak up on people a little bit, so we’re trying to get the word out as best we can.”
Supporters of the GOP-backed law claimed it restored public faith in the election system, but opponents argued it will suppress votes. The law is being challenged in court by the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa.
Dokter is also president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors. He noted after the law was passed, there were special elections in a few locations, but added this is the first big test auditors will face since the controversial changes took place. “We’ve had some training on that from the Secretary of State’s office,” pointed out. “On the back end of things for county auditors and their staff, there are a lot more changes than meets the eye for voters.” He feels local election offices will be prepared to serve voters this fall.
Under the law, auditors can no longer designate special sites for early voting. It can only happen if enough voters sign a petition. Another provision enacts tougher penalties, including a felony, for auditors who aren’t in full compliance with the statute.