Iowa Supreme Court Building Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Late last month Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano blocked four features of Iowa’s Election Modernization and Integrity Act (HF 516). The changes to Iowa’s voting passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2017 was signed into law by former Governor Terry Branstad.

On Friday afternoon, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order lifting the injunction that blocked the state from shortening the early voting window from 40 days to 29 but affirmed the rest of Romano’s decision.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa and Taylor Blair, a student at Iowa State University, filed suit to block certain aspects of the law.

Romano’s injunction primarily dealt with changes in Iowa’s absentee voting laws, specifically it:

  • Restores the absentee voting period to 40 days from 29 days. (overturned)
  • Blocks the ability of county auditors to reject an absentee ballot request forms or absentee ballots if the signature on the absentee ballot request form or returned absentee ballot envelope does not match the signature on record. (Affirmed)
  • Blocks the requirement to provide an ID number (driver’s license number, non-operator state-issued ID, or voter identification card) on the absentee ballot application. (Affirmed)

The Iowa Supreme Court also affirmed Romano’s order that the Iowa Secretary of State’s office not to include language on absentee ballot request forms that “(a)n absentee ballot cannot be issued until ID number is provided.” They also affirmed her order that the Iowa Secretary of State’s office stop their advertising campaign that indicates IDs are needed this year.

The ID requirement of HF 516 will not go into effect until 2019.

“I want to thank the Iowa Supreme Court for their expedited ruling. Voters benefit from having clarity in how the election laws will be applied for the November general election. While I am disappointed the Court set aside only part of the injunction, I look forward to a full hearing on the merits of the case at some point in the future,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a released statement responding to the ruling.

“It is important for voters to remember that for elections held in 2018, pre-registered voters are required to provide an approved form of identification or sign an oath of identification before receiving and casting a ballot at the polls on Election Day. We will continue to work with and follow the guidance of the Attorney General’s Office in messages to voters and training for county auditors and poll workers,” Pate added.

Justice Thomas Waterman dissented from Court’s affirmation of the injunction blocking the requirement to provide a voter ID number on the absentee ballot application. 

Justice Brent Appel dissented from the Court’s decision to overturn the injunction preventing the shortening the early voting period to 29 days.

Justice Edward Mansfield joined Waterman in dissenting against the court’s decision to affirm the use of the signature- matching provisions.

Mansfield and Waterman offered a caveat to their dissent. They said they “would order that any absentee ballot received after the Saturday 5 p.m. deadline that is deemed to have a signature mismatch would be treated and preserved as a provisional ballot under Iowa law with notice mailed to the voter and an opportunity to the voter to demonstrate to the special precinct election board that the signature on the envelope was that of the voter.”

The case has been remanded back to district court.

Read the Iowa Supreme Court’s order below:

Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

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