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A bill that Republicans hope will help preserve Iowa’s First In The Nation status as a caucus state moved through an Iowa Senate subcommittee on Wednesday morning. The bill changes current state law from deciding a tie in a primary election by selecting a name out of hat to instead be decided by party precinct committee members. It removes the requirement for the Secretary of State to use ERIC and it also states each political party is able to set rules for its caucus including, but not limited to, voter registration requirements.

That was changed in an amendment added on the floor of the House on Monday. Previously the bill stated individuals needed to be registered with the party for 70 days prior to the caucus in order to participate. Instead, each party will be able to decide its rules in that regard.

Finally, the bill requires presidential caucus participation be in person.

Amy Campbell of the League of Women Voters spoke against the bill. She expressed concern it would affect voter turnout or increased participation.

Democrat State Sen. Herman Quirmbach said the bill is a “blatant violation” of the First Amendment.

“Freedom to assemble, petition the government for redress of grievances — that’s what we’re doing when we have a caucus,” he said. “It is not the government’s ability to regulate the caucus, it’s the caucus’s ability to influence the government that the Constitution protects.”

He also said that even though the 70-day requirement was removed, parties will be allowed to put it back in.

“I have no reason to believe that Democrats want to limit who participates,” he said.

Republican State Sen. Chris Cournoyer said she believes it is important there be uniformity in the rules across the state.

Republican State Sen. Jason Schultz said the bill is about as “solid of an integrity bill as you could have.”

“This is protecting Iowa — all of Iowa,” he said.

Schultz said there has been interference from the national Democrat Party machine that has caused trouble. He said the bill puts rules in place for integrity and consistency in the system.

The in-person requirement is necessary because if there is not an in-person requirement for the caucus, other states will claim Iowa isn’t doing a caucus but instead a primary election. And if that is the case, certain state laws will force those states ahead of Iowa in the presidential process.

“We need to move this forward just so that we have a clear path forward and we set rules and guidelines and predictability,” he said.

As for ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, Schultz said it has been a “failure” and the requirement must be removed.

“I think it’s been established that that failed,” Schultz said. “ERIC itself didn’t do what we were hoping for.”


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