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The Iowa Senate passed a bill relating to elections on the final day of the legislative session Thursday. House File 716 does a few things:

*If a primary election for the general assembly ends in a tie, party precinct members will determine the winner rather than current law, which settles the race by drawing a name out of a hat.
*If a state party chooses to select delegates for a presidential caucus, participants must be physically present.
*States parties may adopt their own rules concerning, participating in and voting in caucuses including voter registration requirements at the precinct caucus.
*It removes the requirement for Iowa to participate in ERIC.
*It permits the cost of processing credit card payments to be part of the fees to obtain a voter list.

Democrats fought the bill because it would prohibit mail-in ballots for the presidential selection process. And they’ve also criticized a previous version of the bill that would’ve required caucusgoers to be registered in the party they participate in for 70 days.

Democrat Sen. Zach Wahls said Iowa Democrats have planned for more than a year to expand the caucus process to ensure every person wanting to participate has the chance. But now, the “partisan bill” undermines all of those efforts.

Wahls said while Republicans try to convince Iowans the bill is about protecting Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucuses, that is “clearly false.”

Iowa Republicans will not stand up to the New Hampshire Secretary of State, he said, even though Democrats have stood up to President Joe Biden when it comes to defending Iowa’s caucuses.

Republicans maintain that if mail-in voting is allowed for the caucus, it will be considered a primary election by other states that have state laws requiring them to be the first primary state.

Wahls said the bill requires causes to remain less accessible and less democratic than Iowa deserves. He called the bill “petty, partisan, unconstitutional and unnecessary.”

Republican State Sen. Jeff Taylor, a political science professor, said the whole idea of a caucus is to meet in person.

“To me, that’s a tradition that’s worth protecting,” he said.

Taylor detailed problems from the 2016 and 2020 Democrat caucuses as well as the 2012 Republican caucus.

He added that a caucus may mean having a lower voter turnout than a primary, and may be less accessible than a primary, but noted it is nothing new.

“I don’t think we want to give up that face-to-face gathering of Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

Taylor said there are questions in terms of accuracy and trustworthiness of mail-in voting. He noted concerns with the chain of custody of a ballot, who actually fills out the ballot, ballot harvesting and other issues.

The bill passed by a vote of 33-16. Every Republican present supported the bill while every Democrat opposed it.


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