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Stop voter suppression

Iowa’s Republican state lawmakers have apparently won so big they’re tired of winning.

Why else would they insist on tinkering with Iowa’s election system?

It is the system that recently delivered the GOP stronger majorities in the Iowa Legislature, five out of six seats in the U.S. Congress and six Electoral College votes, in consecutive elections, for former President Donald Trump.

Yet the legislative victors insist — again this session — that voting reforms are needed.

So lawmakers pushed through legislation that would shorten Iowa’s early voting period, reduce Election Day voting by an hour and create a stricter deadline for returning absentee ballots.

The goal of GOP lawmakers is obvious: Make it more difficult for Iowans to cast ballots.

That was the goal in 2017 when they rammed through an unnecessary voter ID law to supposedly respond to nonexistent fraud. It has been the goal ever since — when legislators pushed to ban satellite voting on college campuses and stood pat on keeping people once convicted of felonies disenfranchised.

But their latest voter suppression efforts seem to be driven by an orchestrated national effort by the GOP to erect state-level barriers to voting. Hundreds of bills aimed at election procedures and voting access have been introduced in statehouses across the country this year.

During a recent legislative hearing, Adams County Auditor Becky Bissell, a Republican, said, “Smaller rural counties have a large elderly population who typically choose to vote absentee because of weather or health concerns. Why are we making it harder for them to vote?”

Good question. And it’s particularly odd considering rural voters tend to favor Republicans.

Who can put a stop to such shenanigans?

The U.S. Congress.

The U.S. House recently passed H.R. 1, also referred to as the For the People Act.

The legislation requires states to offer mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration and early voting. It includes mandatory automatic voter registration and restoration of voting rights to people who complete felony sentences. It would make it more difficult for states to eliminate inactive voters from the rolls.

Top-down directives like this should be infrequent. But Congress rightly steps in when civil rights are at stake, as it did with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it’s time to do it again.

Further, none of those measures should even be controversial.

Republicans should support this legislation.

They should want to preserve the election system in Iowa that landed them their jobs in Congress. They should want to ensure their constituents can exercise their constitutional right to vote.

* Editorial from the Des Moines Register

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