DES MOINES ? The Iowa chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens on Wednesday said it has filed a lawsuit challenging Iowa?s voter ID law in Iowa district court.
Joe Enriquez Henry, the national vice president for the Midwest Region for LULAC, said the lawsuit will challenge all of elements of the new law, including the shortened early voting window. The new law also requires voters to produce state-approved identification at the polls.
Henry said the new requirements put undue pressure on a portion of Iowa voters, including minorities.
?It?s going to cut down on the opportunity for a number of people from our community to be able to have their votes counted,? Henry said. ?This is wrong. It?s a smokescreen, another form of voter suppression.?
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate defended Iowa?s voting laws, saying they remain some of the most generous in the country.
?Iowa is one of only seven states that offers Election Day voter registration, online voter registration, no-fault absentee voting, and early voting. Our absentee voting period remains one of the longest in the nation, and our polls are open longer on Election Day than every state except New York,? Pate said in a statement. ?It?s easy to vote in Iowa, but hard to cheat.?
Pate released a statement Wednesday about the lawsuit itself.
?My office has not received any official notification of a lawsuit filed against us. However, based on materials provided to us by the media, I am disappointed at this effort to politicize Iowa?s voting process, apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections. This is a baseless and politically motivated lawsuit, paid for by Democratic Party?s top super PAC.
The full extent of the new law?s impact likely will not be known until this fall?s general election, one Iowa political scientist said.
Political activists are the most likely to vote in a primary election; general election turnout includes more no-party and casual voters.
The early voting period in the 2014 primary was between April 24 and June 2, which is 40 days or more than five weeks.
The early voting period in the 2018 primary runs from May 7 through June 4. That is just 29 days, or exactly four weeks.
Voting rights advocates expressed concern that the shortened timeframe would suppress voter turnout. That has not happened during this, the first statewide election under the new law.
?I think it?s too early to know (the full impact of the new law). I?d want to see what happens in the general election,? said Christopher Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa.
Meanwhile, Iowans are casting more early votes, despite a reduced timeframe.
State data shows a shortened early voting period has not stunted early voting under the state?s new law, even as a group announces its plan to challenge the law in court.
Driven by a surge in early ballots submitted by Iowa Democrats, the number of early votes for the state?s primary election this year has increased by more than 35 percent over the previous non-presidential primary election, in 2014.
One week out from Election Day, 28,341 early ballots had been submitted or completed in-person by voters, according to data from the Iowa Secretary of State?s office.
That?s 35.5 percent more than the number of early votes that were submitted one week out from the 2014 primary election.
That increase has occurred despite early voting starting more than a week later this year under recent changes made to the state?s elections laws.
For now, Democrats are driving the early voting increase in the primary; their early votes have increased 67 percent over the same point in 2014.
Republicans are submitting fewer early ballots: 10 percent fewer than at the same point in 2014.
Daily absentee ballot data in the 2010 midterm election and those prior was not recorded, the Secretary of State?s office said.
The drop in early Republican voting likely can be attributed in large part to the fact there is no significant race in this year?s Republican primaries.
Gov. Kim Reynolds does not face a primary challenger, and only one of the three Congressional races features a Republican primary. That?s in the 4th District, where incumbent Rep. Steve King is considered a heavy favorite.
By contrast, in 2014 there was a competitive Republican primary race for Iowa?s open seat in the U.S. Senate that captured voters? attention.
The spike in Democrats? early voting likely can be attributed to exactly the opposite: Iowa Democrats had no competitive races in the 2014 U.S. Senate or gubernatorial primaries, but this year are observing and voting in a competitive gubernatorial primary.
?In 2014, there were two uncontested primaries in the governor?s race and an uncontested primary in the Democratic Senate race. Joni Ernst won a contested Republican primary for the open Senate seat. That will affect numbers,? said Arthur Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University.
The Democrats? spike also could be partially attributed to excitement among the party?s voters and perhaps a more concerted effort by the gubernatorial campaigns to convince supporters to vote early, Larimer said.
Iowa?s primary Election Day is Tuesday. Voters may cast early ballots, either in person at an auditor?s office or via mail, until Monday.