Senate File 531 - Reprinted SENATE FILE 531 BY COMMITTEE ON STATE GOVERNMENT (SUCCESSOR TO SSB 1204) (As Amended and Passed by the Senate March 9, 2021 ) A BILL FOR An Act relating to the conduct of elections during emergencies. 1 BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA: 2 SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb
S.F. 531 Section 1. Section 47.1, subsection 2, Code 2021, is amended 1 to read as follows: 2 2. a. The state commissioner of elections may exercise 3 emergency powers over any election being held in a district in 4 which either a natural or other disaster or extremely inclement 5 weather has occurred within fifteen days of the election . 6 The state commissioner’s decision to alter any conduct for 7 an election using emergency powers must be approved by the 8 legislative council. If the legislative council does not 9 approve the secretary of state’s use of emergency powers to 10 conduct an election, the legislative council may choose to 11 present and approve its own election procedures or choose to 12 take no further action. The state commissioner of elections 13 may also exercise emergency powers during an armed conflict 14 involving United States armed forces, or mobilization of those 15 forces, or if an election contest court finds that there were 16 errors in the conduct of an election making it impossible to 17 determine the result. The state commissioner of elections 18 shall exercise emergency powers as provided in section 47.12. 19 b. If an emergency exists in all precincts of a county, 20 the number of polling places shall not be reduced by more 21 than thirty-five percent. The polling places allowed to open 22 shall be equitably distributed in the county based on the 23 ratio of regular polling places located in unincorporated 24 areas in the county to regular polling places in incorporated 25 areas in the county. The general assembly may, by concurrent 26 resolution, rescind an emergency declaratory order. If the 27 general assembly is not in session, the legislative council 28 may, by a majority vote, rescind the emergency declaratory 29 order. Rescission shall be effective upon filing of the 30 concurrent resolution or vote of the legislative council with 31 the secretary of state. 32 Sec. 2. Section 47.1, subsection 4, Code 2021, is amended by 33 striking the subsection. 34 Sec. 3. NEW SECTION . 47.12 Emergency election procedures. 35 -1- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 1/ 9
S.F. 531 1. For purposes of this section: 1 a. “Election contest court” means any of the courts 2 specified in sections 57.1, 58.4, 61.1, 62.1A, and 376.10. 3 b. “Extremely inclement weather” means a natural occurrence, 4 such as a rainstorm, windstorm, ice storm, blizzard, tornado, 5 or other weather conditions, that makes travel extremely 6 dangerous, that threatens the public health and safety, or that 7 damages and destroys public and private property. 8 c. “Natural disaster” means a natural occurrence, such 9 as a fire, flood, blizzard, earthquake, tornado, windstorm, 10 ice storm, or other events, that threatens the public health 11 and safety or that damages and destroys public and private 12 property. 13 d. “Other disaster” means an occurrence caused by machines 14 or people, such as fire, hazardous substance, or nuclear power 15 plant accident or incident, that threatens the public health 16 and safety or that damages and destroys public and private 17 property. 18 2. The county commissioner of elections, or the county 19 commissioner’s designee, may notify the state commissioner 20 that due to a natural or other disaster or extremely inclement 21 weather an election cannot safely be conducted in the time 22 or place for which the election is scheduled to be held. If 23 the county commissioner or the county commissioner’s designee 24 is unable to transmit notice of the hazardous conditions, 25 the notice may be given by any elected county official. 26 Verification of the county commissioner’s agreement with the 27 severity of the conditions and the danger to the election 28 process shall be transmitted to the state commissioner as soon 29 as possible. Notice may be given by telephone or electronic 30 mail, but a signed notice shall also be delivered to the state 31 commissioner. 32 3. After receiving notice of hazardous conditions, the 33 state commissioner, or the state commissioner’s designee, may 34 declare that an emergency exists in the affected precinct or 35 -2- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 2/ 9
S.F. 531 precincts. A copy of the declaration of the emergency shall 1 be provided to the county commissioner and posted on the 2 internet site for both the state commissioner and the county 3 commissioner. 4 4. a. When the state commissioner has declared that an 5 emergency exists due to a natural or other disaster or to 6 extremely inclement weather, the county commissioner, or the 7 county commissioner’s designee, shall consult with the state 8 commissioner to develop a plan to conduct the election under 9 the emergency conditions. 10 b. Modifications may be made to the method for conducting 11 the election including relocation of polling places, 12 postponement of the hour of opening the polls, postponement of 13 the date of the election if no candidates for federal offices 14 are on the ballot, reduction in the number of precinct election 15 officials in nonpartisan elections, or other reasonable and 16 prudent modifications that will permit the election to be 17 conducted, but no modifications shall be made to requirements 18 for voter identification and absentee ballot request 19 and delivery. All modifications to the usual method for 20 conducting elections shall be approved in advance by the state 21 commissioner unless prior approval is impossible to obtain. 22 c. Notwithstanding paragraph “b” , no modification made to 23 the method for conducting elections shall be made to allow an 24 election to be conducted solely by mail. 25 5. If an emergency exists in all precincts of a county, 26 the number of polling places shall not be reduced by more than 27 thirty-five percent. The polling places allowed to open shall 28 be equitably distributed in the county based on the ratio of 29 regular polling places located in unincorporated areas in the 30 county to regular polling places in incorporated areas in the 31 county. 32 6. a. A substitute polling place shall be as close as 33 possible to the originally designated polling place and shall 34 be within the same precinct if possible. Preference shall 35 -3- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 3/ 9
S.F. 531 be given to buildings that are accessible to the elderly and 1 disabled. Public buildings shall be made available without 2 charge by the authorities responsible for their administration. 3 If necessary, more than one precinct may be located in the same 4 room. 5 b. A notice of the location of the substitute polling place 6 shall comply with the requirements of section 49.23. If it 7 is unsafe or impossible to post the sign on the door of the 8 former polling place, the notice shall be posted in some other 9 visible place at or near the site of the former polling place. 10 The county commissioner shall inform all broadcast media and 11 print news organizations serving the jurisdiction of the 12 modifications and publish a notice on the county commissioner’s 13 internet site. 14 7. An election, other than an election at which a federal 15 office appears on the ballot, may be postponed until the 16 following Tuesday. If the election involves more than one 17 precinct, the postponement must include all precincts within 18 the political subdivision. If the election is postponed, 19 ballots shall not be reprinted to reflect the modification in 20 the election date. The date of the close of voter registration 21 by mail for the election shall not be extended. Precinct 22 election registers prepared for the original election date may 23 be used or reprinted at the commissioner’s discretion. Except 24 as provided in this section, a postponed election shall be 25 conducted in the same manner as an election taking place on the 26 regularly scheduled election day. 27 8. a. Absentee ballots shall be delivered to voters 28 pursuant to section 53.22 until the date the election is 29 actually held. Absentee ballots shall be accepted at the 30 commissioner’s office until the hour the polls close on the 31 date the election is held. Absentee ballots that bear a 32 barcode traceable to a date of entry into the federal mail 33 system no later than the day before the election is actually 34 held shall be accepted if received no later than the length of 35 -4- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 4/ 9
S.F. 531 time prescribed for the usual conduct of the election. The 1 time shall be calculated from the date on which the election 2 is held, not the date for which the election was originally 3 scheduled. 4 b. If absentee ballots have been tabulated before the 5 election is postponed, the absentee ballots shall be sealed in 6 an envelope by the absentee and special voters precinct board 7 and stored securely until the date the election is actually 8 held. The sealed envelopes shall be opened by the absentee 9 and special voters precinct board on the date the election is 10 actually held, counters on the tabulating equipment, if any, 11 shall be reset to zero, and all absentee ballots tabulated on 12 the original election date shall be retabulated. 13 9. The absentee and special voters precinct board shall 14 meet to consider provisional ballots at the times specified in 15 sections 50.22 and 52.23, calculated from the date the election 16 is held. No absentee ballots shall be counted until the date 17 the election is held. 18 10. The canvass of votes shall be rescheduled for one week 19 after the originally scheduled canvass date. 20 11. a. If the emergency is declared while the polls are 21 open and the decision is made to postpone the election, each 22 precinct polling place in the political subdivision shall be 23 notified to close its doors and to halt all voting immediately. 24 People present in the polling place who are waiting to vote 25 shall not be given ballots. People who have received and 26 marked their ballots shall deposit them in the ballot box. 27 Unmarked ballots shall be returned to the precinct election 28 officials. 29 b. The precinct election officials shall seal all ballots 30 that were cast before the declaration of the emergency in 31 secure containers. The containers shall be clearly marked as 32 ballots from the postponed election. If it is safe to do so, 33 the ballot containers, election register, and other election 34 supplies shall be transported to the county commissioner’s 35 -5- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 5/ 9
S.F. 531 office. The ballots shall be stored in a secure place. If 1 it is unsafe to travel to the county commissioner’s office, 2 the chairperson of the precinct election board shall securely 3 store the ballots and the election register until it is safe 4 to return the ballots and election register to the county 5 commissioner. If no contest is pending six months after the 6 canvass for the election is completed, the unopened, sealed 7 ballot containers shall be destroyed. 8 c. If automatic tabulating equipment is used, the automatic 9 tabulating equipment shall be closed and sealed without 10 printing the results. Before the date the election is held, 11 the automatic tabulating equipment shall be reset to zero. 12 Documents showing the progress of the count, if any, shall be 13 sealed in an envelope and stored. No person shall reveal the 14 progress of the count. After six months, the sealed envelope 15 containing the vote totals shall be destroyed if no contest is 16 pending. 17 12. The state commissioner shall maintain records of each 18 emergency declaration. The records of emergency declarations 19 for federal elections shall be kept for twenty-two months 20 and records for all other elections shall be kept for six 21 months following the election. The records shall include the 22 following information: 23 a. The county in which the emergency occurred. 24 b. The date and time the emergency declaration was 25 requested. 26 c. The name and title of the person making the request. 27 d. The name and date of the election affected. 28 e. The jurisdiction for which the election is to be 29 conducted. 30 f. The number of precincts in the jurisdiction. 31 g. The number of precincts affected by the emergency. 32 h. The nature of the emergency. 33 i. The date or dates of the occurrence of the natural or 34 other disaster or extremely inclement weather. 35 -6- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 6/ 9
S.F. 531 j. The conditions affecting the conduct of the election. 1 k. Whether the polling places may safely be opened on time. 2 l. Any action taken such as but not limited to moving the 3 polling place, changing the voting system, or postponing the 4 election until the following Tuesday. 5 m. The method to be used to inform the public of changes 6 made in the election procedure. 7 n. The signature of the state commissioner or the state 8 commissioner’s designee who was responsible for declaring the 9 emergency. 10 13. a. (1) If an emergency occurs that will adversely 11 affect the conduct of an election at which candidates for 12 federal office will appear on the ballot, the election shall 13 not be postponed or delayed. Emergency measures shall be 14 limited to relocation of polling places, modification of 15 the method of voting not including requirements for voter 16 identification and absentee ballot request and delivery, 17 reduction of the number of precinct election officials at 18 a precinct, and other modifications of prescribed election 19 procedures that will enable the election to be conducted on the 20 date and during the hours required by law. 21 (2) The primary election held in June of even-numbered years 22 and the general election held in November of even-numbered 23 years shall not be postponed. Special elections called by 24 the governor pursuant to section 69.14 shall not be postponed 25 unless no federal office appears on the ballot. 26 b. If a federal or state court order extends the time 27 established for closing the polls pursuant to section 49.73, 28 any person who votes after the statutory hour for closing the 29 polls shall vote only by casting a provisional ballot pursuant 30 to section 49.81. Provisional ballots cast after the statutory 31 hour for closing the polls shall be sealed in a separate 32 envelope from provisional ballots cast during the statutory 33 polling hours. The absentee and special voters precinct board 34 shall tabulate and report the results of the two sets of 35 -7- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 7/ 9
S.F. 531 provisional ballots separately. 1 14. A voter who is entitled to vote by absentee ballot under 2 the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting 3 Act, 42 U.S.C. §1973ff et seq., and the provisions set forth 4 in chapter 53, subchapter II, may return an absentee ballot 5 via electronic transmission only if the voter is located in 6 an area designated by the federal department of defense to 7 be an imminent danger pay area or if the voter is an active 8 member of the army, navy, marine corps, merchant marine, coast 9 guard, air force, space force, or Iowa national guard and is 10 located outside the United States or any of its territories. 11 Procedures for the return of absentee ballots by electronic 12 transmission shall be determined by the state commissioner by 13 rule. 14 15. a. If an election contest court finds that there were 15 errors in the conduct of an election that make it impossible 16 to determine the result of the election, the contest court 17 shall notify the state commissioner of its finding. The state 18 commissioner shall order a repeat election to be held. The 19 repeat election date shall be set by the state commissioner. 20 The repeat election shall be conducted under the state 21 commissioner’s supervision. 22 b. The repeat election shall be held at the earliest 23 possible time, but it shall not be held earlier than fourteen 24 days after the date the election was set aside. Voter 25 registration, publication, equipment testing, and other 26 applicable deadlines shall be calculated from the date of the 27 repeat election. 28 c. The repeat election shall be conducted under the same 29 procedures required for the election that was set aside, 30 except that all known errors in preparation and procedure 31 shall be corrected. The nominations from the initial election 32 shall be used in the repeat election unless the contest court 33 specifically rejects the initial nomination process in its 34 findings. Precinct election officials for the repeat election 35 -8- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 8/ 9
S.F. 531 may be replaced at the discretion of the auditor. 1 d. The following materials prepared for the original 2 election shall be used or reconstructed for the repeat 3 election: 4 (1) Ballots showing the date of repeat election, which may 5 be stamped on ballots printed for the original election. 6 (2) Notice of election showing the date of repeat election. 7 -9- SF 531 (3) 89 ss/jh/mb 9/ 9