voting_boothLegislators have filed five bills related to Iowa’s election law ranging from creating a runoff primary system to electronic voter registration.

Republicans have filed two of the five bills.  State Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) sponsored SF 10 which would change the primary process in Iowa.  Currently Iowa law states that if a candidate does not reach a 35% threshold on primary election night then the nominee is by a special nominating convention.

The bill should it pass would change that process from a special nominating convention to a runoff election between the two highest vote recipients.  The election would be held four weeks after the primary election which is held the 1st Tuesday in June unless that date falls in the same week as Independence Day.

Zaun’s bill comes with some personal history.  Last June Zaun was the top vote recipient primary night, but finished with only 24.6% of the vote.  Robert Cramer was a close second with  21.2%, former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz was a close 3rd with 20.1%, Monte Shaw had 16.9%, now Congressman David Young finished with 15.6%, and Joe Grandanette received 1.6%.

David Young who finished 5th on primary night won the special nominating convention on the 5th ballot taken.  Zaun led every ballot prior to that.

“Although this is not my top issue, obviously I have had first hand experience with this issue and have heard from literally hundreds of Iowans that felt their voice was not considered at the district convention,” Zaun told Caffeinated Thoughts.  “This is a non partisan issue and is reflective of what is done in most other states.”

State Representative Peter Cownie (R-Des Moines) sponsored HF 4 which would eliminate straight-ticket voting on Iowa’s ballots.  37% of Iowans in the general election voted straight ticket.  212,085 Republicans voted straight-party ticket making up 18.7% of the vote.  194,299 Democrats did the same on election day making up 17.1% of the vote.  This will be Cownie’s third attempt to pass this bill.  Last year’s bill died in the Iowa House State Government Committee.

“Iowa is one of only 15 states with straight ticket voting on our ballots, meaning an Iowan at the polls may check a box marked either ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’ at the top of his or her ballot, and upon doing so, every individual candidate of that political party on the ballot has a vote cast for him or her. I believe this has fostered partisanship and created a less educated voter. For those two reasons alone, straight ticket voting should be eliminated,” Cownie shared in a newsletter sent to constituents last week.

“By removing the straight ticket voting option, the political party is not removed from the ballot. In fact, every Iowan will always have the opportunity to vote for either all Democrats or all Republicans,” Cownie added. “What eliminating straight ticket voting does is create the expectation that Iowans pay their ballots the attention those ballots deserve at a time when an understanding of the benefits and consequences of the political process is paramount to a successful State of Iowa.”

Zaun’s nor Cownie’s bill have additional cosponsors.

State Representative Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) filed two bills HF 27 and HF 29.  HF 27 would create a voluntary mechanism publicly funded campaigns for candidates running for state office who elect to participate and not receive any private funding. The bill sets contribution limits for candidates who elect not to receive public funds.  Public funds in the bill would be allotted in contested primary and general elections.  A gubernatorial candidate could receive up to $3,750,000 in taxpayer funds throughout the primary and general election.  A candidate running for another statewide office could receive a total of $275,000 dollars.  State Senate candidates could receive $62,000 and State Representative candidates could receive up to $45,000 in taxpayer funds running in a contested primary and general election.  Candidates to be eligible for taxpayer funding in the general election would have to be from a political party whose candidates received at least 20% of all the votes cast for that office.

Individual donors for campaigns that don’t participate would be limited to $1,000 for statewide offices and $500 for a state legislative race.  Political committees would be limited to $5000 for statewide offices and $1000 for state legislative races.  Monetary and in-kind donations from political parties can not exceed 5% of the “clean election financing amount” for that particular office for the general election.

Only the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Iowa League of Women Voters have registered in favor of the bill.   Hunter’s other bill, HF 29, would allow cities of 200 people or less to conduct their elections by absentee ballot.

State Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames) filed HF 28 which would set up electronic voter registration from the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.  The bill requires that the electronic voter registration form provides all of the information given on a printed voter registration form.  The bill also requires a registrant seeking to use the electronic voter registration form have an Iowa driver’s license, Iowa nonoperator’s identification card, a social security number, or a unique identifying number assigned to the registrant for voter registration purposes.

The Iowa CCI Action Fund, Iowa Interfaith Alliance Action Fund and Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club have registered in favor of the bill.

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