Iowa Election News: New legislation review – SF413

The attached pdf from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Legal Counsel summarizes each section of SF413, which was recently signed by the Governor. The key to this new legislation is communication to election administrators like me and my office, and to the public. To that end, this legislation requires county treasurers to print that the polls will be closing at 8pm on county issued property tax bills.

While printing the poll closing times on property tax bills may notify property taxpayers who receive a tax bill, it will do nothing for the taxpayers who don’t read the entire tax bill or for those who don’t receive property taxes bills.

If the State does not thoroughly notify every registered voter of the 8pm deadline – not once, but at least three times prior to the next election – I could easily see 100 to 1,000 absentee ballots not being counted in the November 2021 election because my office did not receive the ballots prior to the 8pm deadline.

SF413 seems to be specific about what I have to do and what I cannot do. So am I in violation of the new law if I take an initiative to inform my constituents/voters that the polls close at 8pm when one or more counties do not take the same initiative? Is the new standard for 98 commissioners of elections to do no more than the county commissioner with the least initiative?

SF413 looks like a race to the bottom for Iowa’s elections.  I hope I’m wrong.  Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

From: Widen, Molly [SOS] <>
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2021 3:11 PM
Subject: New Legislation Review – SF413

Auditors, Deputies and Staff,

As was discussed during the ISACA spring conference, I have produced a walk-through review of Senate File 413 (SF413). Because this legislation went into effect immediately upon enactment with the signature of the Governor, it is very important that we all quickly become familiar with the language of this bill.

In order to accommodate availability to all election administrators in all 99 counties, this video is available for you to watch in the Auditor’s Portal on the Secretary of State’s website at the following location: We request that everyone watch this video and submit any questions for clarification by Friday, April 2. Based on the questions we receive, we will determine the best method for follow-up. That may involve production of a Frequently Asked Questions document or may include a more in-depth Teams meeting depending on needs reflected in your feedback.

The language of this bill is being integrated into the Election Administrator’s Handbook, and updates to those chapters are a top priority right now. We are making good progress toward meeting our goal of having the first five chapters updated and available by mid-April. Relatedly, you can expect another email regarding City–School Election materials in the very near future.

Attached is a pdf of SF413 that we have prepared to assist you in locating a particular section when referring back to the bill. It includes a summary of each section in the margin, and we believe it would be very useful for you to print this document and follow along while watching this video. You are encouraged to make your own notes on this document to make it an even better resource for yourself moving forward.

As I mention throughout the recording, there are some sections of this legislation that will require administrative rules to establish statewide standards and consistent implementation. Because this bill has gone into effect, there is no transition period for the administrative rules process to be completed prior to needing to run elections under these new laws. We understand that vacancy elections are already in the works in some areas, and others may crop up on any given day. If an election is called in your county, please reach out to us so that we can work through implementation of SF413 with you.

If you still have questions after watching the video in its entirety and reviewing the attached version of the bill, then you may submit questions for follow-up by next Friday, April 2. When formatting your questions, please keep in mind that I will not answer questions about hypothetical scenarios. While I understand that election officials are planners, our office is prepared to assist you in navigating real world scenarios and issues as they come up. Asking questions regarding hypothetical fact patterns can lead to confusing, incomplete answers, so I would ask that you stick to clarifying questions about the state of the law today. You can submit your questions at the following link. If you have more than 5 follow-up questions, you may submit the form more than once.

Thank you for taking time to apprise yourselves of these new requirements in your role as an election administrator. We look forward to receiving your questions for follow-up by next Friday, April 2.


Molly M. Widen – Legal Counsel – Office of Iowa Secretary of State

SF413 Redline.pdf

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