Civil Rights Group Sues Iowa Over New Voting Restrictions

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A Latino civil rights organization is suing the state of Iowa over changes to voting access, describing shortened poll times and tighter access to absentee voting as creating “unjust and unjustifiable burdens.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa challenged the restrictions, signed into law Monday by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, as a violation of the state’s constitution.

“What makes the bill baffling — and fatally unconstitutional — is that it lacks any cognizable justification for these burdensome effects on the franchise,” the complaint reads. “The bill is largely a grab-bag of amendments and new restrictions that lack any unifying theme other than making both absentee and election day voting more difficult for lawful Iowa voters.”

The bill, passed through the Republican-controlled legislature, shortens the early voting period from 29 days to 20 days and closes polling places an hour earlier on Election Day.

The law also bans officials from sending absentee voting applications without a voter requesting one, and requires absentee ballots to be received before polls close on Election Day.

“Iowa is consistently one of the top states in the nation for voter registration and participation and I’ll keep striving to make us number one,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. “Our goal has always been to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”

The changes come after unprecedented turnout in 2020 as many voters took advantage of relaxed standards during the coronavirus pandemic. Republican lawmakers are now rolling back those changes and implementing other restrictions that could dampen participation.

The complaint states that though the bill’s sponsors claim its purpose is to ensure “election security,” they do not deny that Iowa’s election system is already secure. It pointed to the record-breaking voter turnout in November when more than 75% of all eligible Iowans cast ballots.

Georgia’s state Senate on Monday also passed a bill that would end “no-excuse” absentee voting, which was popular in 2020. Former President Donald Trump frequently falsely derided the use of absentee voting ahead as ripe for fraud, although officials found no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

LULAC nationally is one of the largest organizations advocating for Latinos in the U.S.

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