Voting Rights & Democracy

The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Yet, over the past two
sessions, the Republican legislature has chipped away at voting rights, despite the
fact that Republicans were successful at the polls. Our elections are safe and
secure, thanks to our 99 county auditors, their staffs and the many people who
step up as poll workers. The changes the Legislature made, particularly in 2020,
did not make it easier or safer to vote – they made it more cumbersome. In the
midst of a pandemic, they sharply curtailed the period for absentee voting,
limited the number of drop boxes for absentee ballots, forbade the Secretary of
State and individual county auditors from sending absentee ballot request forms
to all registered voters and added criminal penalties for minor errors an auditor
may make.


In 2020, Iowans voted in record numbers – 75.77% of eligible voters cast a vote.
That was due in no small measure to the (Republican) Secretary of State’s
decision to send out absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters. He did
not send ballots (as some vote by mail states do) – he sent empty absentee ballot
request forms.


In a democracy, we should be enabling people to vote, not curtailing voting rights
for reasons that have no basis in fact. To do so is reminiscent of Jim Crow. With
that in mind, we need to:

Roll back the 2020 voting law changes; they were unnecessary and the
abbreviated window to return absentee ballots has already prevented
people from voting. Our elderly, ill, immuno-compromised, domestic
violence victims, many in rural areas and essential workers who cannot
make it to the polls all deserve to exercise their franchise.

Expand the window for absentee ballots; extending early voting; lifting
restrictions on drop boxes; and repealing the limits on who can deliver
signed and sealed absentee ballots.

 

Get rid of the restrictions on sending out absentee ballot request forms to
all registered voters, whether by the Secretary of State or county auditors.

It should also clarify that it is acceptable for forms to be partially pre-filled
at early voting sites.

 

Delete the provisions that provide for financial penalties on elected
auditors for technical errors.


If you fear people’s votes, I suggest you adjust your policies and priorities
so they align with what Iowans support and need.

I know first-hand what it is like to live under an autocratic government. I was in
East Berlin when the Berlin Wall fell; I followed the demonstrations on the
streets, talked to democratic activists and helped covered the GDR’s only
democratic election. I have witnessed anti-democratic policies in Turkey and
had the privilege of getting to know the Solidarnosc generation in Poland.

 

Trust me when I say: You do not want to live under a dictatorship.
Finally, I was in the Washington DC area on January 6 when the insurrection
took place. Two days later, I attempted to drive down to the National Mall –
for blocks surrounding the Mall, it resembled nothing less than an armed
encampment. Barricaded streets, national guard, armored personnel carriers,
boarded up windows, fenced off buildings. I don’t ever want to see that in my
country again.


Let. The. People. Vote.