The legislation would limit objections filed to the State Objection Panel on federal candidates’ eligibility to appear on the Iowa ballot. (Photo illustration by Getty Images)
The Iowa Secretary of State’s office has filed legislation that would limit what objections Iowans can raise through the state elections office in an effort to prevent candidates from appearing on the state ballot.
The proposal comes in the wake of lawsuits challenging former President Donald Trump’s inclusion on the ballot in several states, including Colorado and Maine.
The bill, which has not yet been assigned a number, would limit objections to the eligibility of candidates for federal office to those based on the residency, age and citizenship requirements laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
This would prevent objections filed to the state commissioner of elections on the basis of the 14th Amendment. The provision, which prohibits people who have “engaged in insurrection” from running for federal office, has been cited in cases to keep Trump off the ballot, pointing to his involvement in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether Trump can appear on the Colorado primary ballot after a state Supreme Court decision finding him ineligible. On Thursday, the Maine Supreme Court declined to hear arguments about Trump’s eligibility in a similar case, awaiting the federal Supreme Court decision.
Iowa Secretary of State spokesperson Ashley Hunt said in a statement that the bill does not prevent anyone from pursuing legal challenges, but limits the objections that could be considered by the State Objection Panel. The three-member panel, which includes the secretary of state, state attorney general and state auditor, considers challenges to candidates’ qualifications and nomination petitions.
“The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office accepts the recognized political parties’ certifications of their candidates for president and vice president in good faith,” Hunt said in a statement. “This is a technical bill that clarifies which objections the objection panel has jurisdiction to consider but does not prevent anyone from taking legal action or pursuing challenges in court.”
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst said in a news conference Thursday that Democrats want to make sure that “Iowans have the opportunity to vote for the people that they’d like to vote for,” she said. She said she had not yet read the bill but she had concerns about measures to limit objections.
“I always believe that it’s better when the voters make decisions for themselves about who their choices are, who they’re going to nominate,” Konfrst said. “But look, I always get a little nervous when we start talking about access to the ballot and the Secretary of State’s office starts talking about how we can limit it or not.”
The bill would also remove a current requirement for both federal and state candidates to attest that they are aware of being disqualified from holding office if they are convicted of a felony. While that requirement would be maintained for people running for state office, the legislation proposes removing that requirement for federal candidates.
Trump has been charged with 91 felony counts in four criminal cases in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington. Many of the cases are expected to kick off in court during the 2024 presidential nominating process. The former president is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, having won the Iowa GOP caucuses and New Hampshire primary by significant margins.
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