Seeking to address a problem that has grown along with absentee voting, Iowa House Republicans approved a bill yesterday to set new restrictions on which mailed ballots may be counted. Backers said the change would provide more consistency to the system. But the change may not reduce the number of ballots tossed out every election year.Continue Reading...
Both major-party candidates for Iowa secretary of state started running paid advertising within the past two days. After the jump I’ve enclosed the video and transcript of Democratic nominee Brad Anderson’s first television commercial, as well as my transcript of Republican Paul Pate’s first radio ad. Both candidates call for making it “easy to vote” but “hard to cheat” in elections. CORRECTION: Anderson’s ad was released online on October 9 but started running on television stations across Iowa on October 13.
I’ve also enclosed below the voter ID discussion from the debate Pate and Anderson held on Iowa Public Television last weekend. Pate has embraced outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s pet project, in the absence of any evidence that voter impersonation is a real problem in Iowa (or elsewhere). Anderson explains his plan to strengthen election integrity without changing current state law on voter ID.
Two other candidates are running for secretary of state this year. Libertarian Jake Porter is making his second attempt at the job. In 2010, he received about 3 percent of the statewide vote. To my knowledge, he has not run any paid advertising yet this year. When Iowa Public Television excluded him from the recent “Iowa Press” debate, Porter said he will consider a lawsuit and fight to reduce Iowa Public Television’s taxpayer funding. The fourth candidate on the ballot is the little-known Spencer Highland of the “New Independent Party Iowa.”
Closer to election day, Bleeding Heartland will post a comprehensive review of the this campaign. Public Policy Polling’s Iowa survey from late September found Pate slightly ahead of Anderson by 36 percent to 33 percent, with Porter and Highland pulling 3 percent each.Continue Reading...
President Barack Obama announced today that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will resign as soon as a successor is confirmed. Carrie Johnson reported for National Public Radio,
Holder already is one of the longest-serving members of the Obama Cabinet and currently ranks as the fourth-longest tenured AG in history. Hundreds of employees waited in lines, stacked three rows deep, in early February 2009 to witness his return to the Justice Department, where he previously worked as a young corruption prosecutor and as deputy attorney general – the second in command – during the Clinton administration. […]
Holder most wants to be remembered for his record on civil rights: refusing to defend a law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman; suing North Carolina and Texas over voting restrictions that disproportionately affect minorities and the elderly; launching 20 investigations of abuses by local police departments; and using his bully pulpit to lobby Congress to reduce prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Many of those sentences disproportionately hurt minority communities.
Republicans in Congress have long clashed with Holder over many issues, notably the “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking scandal and Holder’s original plan to prosecute the alleged plotters in the 9/11 attacks in federal court in New York City. (Eventually those cases were moved to military courts.)
I had very high hopes for Holder when Obama appointed him, and while he’s far from the worst in the current cabinet, he’s probably the most disappointing from my perspective. As Eric Posner explains well here, “Holder’s Justice Department has helped suppress civil liberties that interfere with what the Bush administration called the ‘war on terror,’ the currently nameless global operation to confront Islamic terrorism wherever it appears.” Although Holder doesn’t explicitly condone torture, the Department of Justice failed to prosecute CIA officials involved in torturing suspects.
Any comments about Holder’s legacy are welcome in this thread. I’ve enclosed below Senator Chuck Grassley’s comment on the attorney general’s plans to step down, and will update this post as needed with other Iowa reaction to the news.
P.S.-Although an early 2009 speech by Holder is now considered a “stumble” or gaffe, there was some truth in his observation, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”Continue Reading...
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz just can’t quit the fantasy that he has saved Iowans from a major “voter fraud” problem. A new report from the Secretary of State’s Office may serve as a welcome distraction from his record of keeping some political appointees on the payroll, but it distorts the reality of election irregularities and ignores more important factors that keep some eligible voters from having their ballots count in Iowa elections.Continue Reading...
A growing proportion of Iowans have chosen to vote early during the last few election cycles. During the 2012 presidential election, 43.2 percent of Iowans who participated cast early ballots. In yesterday’s Des Moines Register, Jason Noble highlighted a problem that has and will continue to nullify the votes of some of them: missing postmarks on ballots that arrive after the general election. Post offices do not always postmark envelopes without a stamp. That’s not a problem when county auditors receive mailed absentee ballots before election day, but current Iowa rules instruct auditors to throw out ballots that arrive late, unless a postmark proves they were mailed on or before the day before the election.
Iowa lawmakers discussed several ideas for addressing the problem, but lack of consensus led them to drop the issue this year. After the jump I’ve posted an excerpt from Noble’s piece.
As things stand, Iowans who plan to vote early either in the 2014 primary or general elections can do a few things to make sure their votes count:
1. Mail in your absentee ballot well before election day, to ensure that it arrives on time.
2. Hand-deliver your absentee ballot to your county auditor’s office.
3. Place a stamp on your absentee ballot envelope, so that the post office will have to put a postmark on it.
4. Vote early in person, either at the county auditor’s office or (for the general election) at a satellite location. I prefer this option, because I know for sure that my ballot got to the right place on time. If you take this route, I recommend reviewing a sample ballot online first, so that you have time to research ballot initiatives and candidates for more obscure offices.Continue Reading...
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced yesterday that nine more Iowans are being charged with “voter fraud.” As you can see from the statement I’ve posted below, eight Waterloo residents face election misconduct charges (a Class D felony) because they registered to vote and cast ballots in the 2012 general election, even though they are felons whose voting rights had not been restored. One Lee County resident who is also an ex-felon is charged with registering to vote and casting a ballot in a 2013 local election.
By my count, Schultz’s obsessive hunt for voter fraud has now yielded criminal charges in 25 cases, representing less than a thousandth of one percent of ballots cast in Iowa’s recent local, state, and federal elections. Most of the cases involve felons whose rights had not been restored, though not all of the accused cast ballots–some had merely registered to vote. No proof has emerged that any of these people knew they were committing a crime. They may have assumed that they had a right to vote, because tens of thousands of Iowa ex-felons had their voting rights restored during Governor Chet Culver’s tenure. They may have assumed they were able to vote once offered a registration form.
Most important, none of these cases could have been averted if Schultz had accomplished his goal of forcing Iowans to show a photo ID when voting on election day. It’s likely that many of these improperly registered voters filled out a form after renewing a driver’s license. Schultz’s full-time criminal investigator has not found anyone guilty of impersonating another voter on election day, which is the only kind of fraud that a photo ID law could prevent.
The new defendants will probably be effective poster children for Schultz’s Congressional campaign, though. Republicans love the fantasy that making it more difficult for thousands of people to vote will somehow protect “election integrity” in Iowa.Continue Reading...