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  • Writer's pictureOliver Hall

CCD Urges Iowa Gov. Reynolds not to Sign Unconstitutional Legislation

On February 25, 2021, CCD sent Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds this letter urging her not to sign HF590 and SF413 into law on the ground that the legislation is unconstitutional under long-settled Supreme Court precedent establishing the "one person, one vote" principle.

The legislation has passed both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate, and news media reports indicate that Governor Reynolds intends to sign it.

If enacted, the legislation will impose several changes to Iowa election law that will restrict voters' ability to participate, including by shortening the early voting period, closing polling places earlier and requiring that absentee ballots be received by elections officials on or before election day. As such, it is part of a spate of legislation introduced following the 2020 general election that appears to serve no legitimate purpose and will only make it harder or impossible for many voters to participate -- especially voters from disadvantaged groups. We oppose such barriers to participation on principle: states should work to make it easier, not harder, to vote.

The aspect of the legislation that is clearly unconstitutional, however, pertains to candidates of "nonparty political organizations" who seek access to Iowa's general election ballot. If enacted, the legislation will require that such candidates obtain nomination petition signatures from a specified number of voters who reside in a specified number of counties. The Supreme Court held such county-based distribution requirements unconstitutional in 1969. See Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 US 814 (1969). Because counties vary greatly by population, the Court concluded that requiring the same level of support from different counties violates the one person, one vote principle established by its prior voting rights cases. Since then, federal courts have consistently held county-based distribution requirements unconstitutional.

We hope Governor Reynolds reconsiders her reported support for Iowa's unconstitutional new legislation. After all, we have already won one legal challenge to county-based distribution requirements (in Pennsylvania). See Constitution Party of Pa. v. Cortes, 877 F.3d 480 (3rd Cir. 2017). Further litigation on this issue should not be necessary.

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