DES MOINES — Iowa House Republicans have rejected changes their Senate colleagues made to their elections bill and are expected to take up a bipartisan compromise later today.
After the GOP-controlled Senate approved House File 2486 30-19 with only Republican votes Wednesday, House Republicans told State Government Chairman Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, “loud and clear that they wanted a bipartisan election bill that made it easier for people to vote.”
He and Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, have proposed that rather than prohibiting the Secretary of State, who is the state commissioner of elections, from mailing absentee ballot request forms to voters unsolicited — a step taken by Secretary Paul Pate ahead of the June 2 primary election, which broke turnout records amid the new coronavirus pandemic – the secretary would have to get permission from the Legislative Council before taking that step.
“We think that's important no matter who's Secretary of State, that one person shouldn't have the authority to make such significant elections changes without the Legislature’s involvement,” Kaufmann said.
If adopted by the House and Senate, the amendment would require that secretary, when making changes under emergency powers, to go before the Legislative Council. The council could approve or reject the plan or come up with its own plan.
HF 2486 was passed 30-19 with only Republican votes in the Senate; two Republicans voted against it. That led to speculation House Republicans, who hold a 53-43 majority and have had some members absent this week, might not have enough votes to approve it as amended by the Senate.
“I presented the entirety of the bill to my caucus and the amendment that you see was what was palatable” to House Republicans, Kaufmann said. The message from his caucus members was “we want this to be a bipartisan effort, we want to show the people that we can come together and have a bipartisan legislation that expands voting rights.”