WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the final hours of their legislative session on Wednesday, Iowa Republicans passed yet another voter suppression bill. The bill, Senate File 568, takes aim at the absentee ballot return process, with an amendment added last minute that defines “delivery agents” — those who are allowed to return absentee ballots on behalf of voters who are unable.
In the new amendment, delivery agents must meet a huge list of requirements in order to legally help someone return a ballot. They must be a registered voter, which is already the law in Iowa; they must be an immediate family member; and they can only return a ballot so long as the person they are delivering for cannot return the ballot on their own due to “blindness or disability.” Agents can only help two voters per election with ballot return — and they cannot be delivery agents if they are an “officer or agent of the voter’s union, a person acting as an actual or implied agent of a political party, a candidate or candidate’s committee.” Unions have long helped their members return ballots in elections to ensure that all of their votes are heard.
State Sen. Pam Jochum (D) made an impassioned speech denouncing the legislation on the floor of the state Senate last night, giving a personal example of the limitations it would put on voters: she has two grandparents and a great aunt who are unable to return their ballots due to disability, but under the new bill she would only be able to help two of them. “For some reason we trust law-abiding citizens with guns and their second amendment rights,” she said, “But we do not trust Iowans when it comes to exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
The bill now returns to the state House for approval of its new amendments.