Iowa Enacts Heritage-Backed Election Reforms


Iowa Enacts Heritage-Backed Election Reforms

Mar 23, 2021

Iowa recently enacted a series of reforms recommended by Heritage to protect electoral integrity.

In a bid to improve electoral integrity, Iowa recently enacted a series of reforms recommended by The Heritage Foundation. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law on March 8. 

The reforms include requiring absentee ballots to arrive before the polls close on Election Day (as opposed to just being postmarked before the election) and forbidding county auditors from mailing absentee ballot request forms to voters unless a voter explicitly asks for one. 

In addition, the reforms require auditors and election officials to enforce state election laws and follow guidelines set by the Iowa secretary of state, with a fine of up to $10,000 for noncompliance. 

Perhaps one the most important reforms the state passed eliminates “ballot harvesting,” a practice where third parties such as political operatives can collect and handle absentee ballots from voters. The new law stipulates that only a voter, or someone in his or her immediate circle, may hand in a completed absentee ballot.  

Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky, manager of Heritage’s Election Law Reform Initiative, has been dauntless in his efforts to prevent abuses of the American electoral system.  

He has testified before state and congressional committees on the importance of maintaining free and fair elections and has dedicated a lifetime to pursuing election reform. Before joining Heritage in 2008, Spakovsky served two years as a member of the Federal Election Commission, the agency that enforces campaign finance laws for congressional and presidential elections. He also served at the U.S. Department of Justice as counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, providing expertise in enforcing the Voting Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. 

“True democracy hinges on the integrity of the election process. Without the assurance that all legal votes are counted—and all illegal votes are weeded out—trust in our government dissipates,” von Spakovsky wrote in a February 2021 commentary, where he presented numerous recommendations, including the elimination of “vote harvesting” to safeguard electoral integrity.  

Increased attacks on election integrity coming from the federal government and Congress—most recently in the form of HR 1, the “For the People Act,” have led Heritage to increase its efforts to educate the public about secure elections. 

As Heritage Distinguished Visiting Fellow Mike Pence recently wrote: “HR 1 is an unconstitutional, reckless, and anti-democratic bill that would erode those foundational principles and could permanently damage our republic.” 

Pence continued: “To restore public confidence in our elections, our leaders should uphold the Constitution, reject congressional Democrats’ plan to nationalize our elections, and get about the serious work of state-based reform that will protect the integrity of the vote for every American.” 

Heritage Action for America, which has launched a multistate effort to lobby for election integrity laws, praised the reforms in Iowa. In a statement, Heritage Action Executive Director Jessica Anderson said: 

By enacting this critical election integrity bill, Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa legislature have made Iowa one of the states leading the charge to secure our nation’s election. After a year of unprecedented challenges to the integrity of our states’ electoral systems... These are common-sense reforms supported by grassroots Americans in Iowa and elsewhere. We hope Iowa will continue to enact reforms based on the Heritage Foundation’s list of best practices for election integrity, like strengthening voter ID laws. 

For more information on Heritage’s recommendations to preserve election integrity, click here.