Bill eliminating drop boxes, banning ranked-choice voting passes Iowa House

The bill would also create a voter registration database program to verify the state's 2.2 million voters.
A ballot drop box

(The Center Square) - A bill that would eliminate ballot drop boxes and ban ranked-choice voting passed the Iowa House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House File 2610 shortens the time absentee ballots can be received in county election offices from when polls close on election day to 5 p.m. on the day before the election.

Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, said the bill would suppress voter turnout.

"I've got numbers from the secretary of state," Nielsen said during the floor debate. "Three thousand voters turned in their absentee ballots on election day in 2022. After this bill is implemented, those 3,000 people would not be able to cast their vote. In 2022, 13,883 Iowans voted by drop box. After this bill is implemented, those votes will not be counted."

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said Iowa residents have 504 hours to vote if the bill passes.

"Anyone can vote in that timeframe," he said.

Kaufmann, the bill's sponsor, said he banned drop boxes because some were found in an alley and in a Hy-Vee store.

"That is not secure, and I'm sorry that some of my friends on the left don't trust the USPS," Kaufmann said. "I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do."

The bill would require counties to purchase new absentee ballot envelopes, according to its fiscal note. Based on previous elections, the new envelopes would cost $800,000 in presidential election years and $286,000 in midterm elections.

The bill would also create a voter registration database program to verify the state's 2.2 million voters. The two-year pilot program would increase the secretary of state's costs by about $135,000 and $356,000 for each year of the program, according to the state's fiscal note.

The bill passed 61 to 35, with four members not voting or absent.

The legislation now moves to the Senate, which is also considering a companion bill. Senate File 2380, previously Senate Study Bill 3161, was approved by a committee last month.

Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, asked during a subcommittee meeting on the bill that at least one drop box be allowed in each county and said she believes the drop boxes are more secure than mailboxes.

"They are extremely secure and they help a lot of Iowans," Weiner said. "They help a lot of people who may have a disability and don't want to get out their vehicle. They help a lot of folks who may have a little kid or who are not well or just older Iowans who don't want to have to get out and go into the auditor's office."