How Iowa could have lost three Supreme Court justices in 2016

Remember how awful you felt on November 9, 2016, as you started to grasp what we were up against following the most devastating Iowa election in decades?

Would you believe the results could have been even worse?

Imagine Governor Terry Branstad appointing three right-wingers to the Iowa Supreme Court. It could have happened if conservative groups had targeted Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justice Brent Appel, and Justice Daryl Hecht with the resources and fervor they had applied against three justices in 2010.

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If all Iowa candidates had to win under rules Republicans forced on unions

“There’s not one Republican in this state that could win an election under the rules they gave us,” asserted AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan after the first round of public union recertification elections ended this week.

He was only slightly exaggerating.

A review of the last two general election results shows that Iowa’s capitol would be mostly devoid of office-holders if candidates for statewide and legislative races needed a majority vote among all their constituents–rather than a plurality among those who cast ballots–to be declared winners.

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13 questions to ask at the public hearing on voter ID rules

This afternoon’s public hearing at the Iowa Secretary of State’s office probably will not lead to any substantial revisions in the administrative rules proposed to implement Iowa’s new election law. While the bill was working its way through the legislature, neither Secretary of State Paul Pate nor Republican lawmakers acknowledged research from other states, indicating voter ID and signature verification requirements would suppress voting by some eligible citizens, especially in certain groups.

Nevertheless, the record from today’s hearing could become important in potential future court rulings on the law.

Gerry Hebert, one of the country’s top experts on voting rights law, told an audience in Des Moines last week that testimony at public hearings has sometimes been useful in litigation on other states’ voting restrictions. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland after that event, Hebert offered more specific suggestions on questions that would be helpful for citizens to ask today.

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Russian hackers targeted Iowa's election system

Iowa was among 21 states where hackers linked to the Russian government tried to obtain access to the election system during the 2016 campaign, Department of Homeland Security officials informed the Iowa Secretary of State’s office on September 22. The agency had previously declined to specify the targeted states.

Official communications from Secretary of State Paul Pate and Deputy Secretary of State Carol Olson did not mention any foreign connection and emphasized the positive, saying “bad actors” didn’t succeed in compromising the election system, and Iowa’s voter registration database remains secure.

Multiple news reports confirmed that intelligence officials had identified these 21 states in their investigation of scanning by “Russian government-linked cyber actors” last year. “Only Illinois reported that hackers had succeeded in breaching its voter systems,” according to an Associated Press story by Geoff Mulvihill and Jake Pearson. Arizona officials took that state’s registration database offline during the summer of 2016 while evaluating an attempted intrusion, believed to come from Russia. Cyber-attacks may have been connected to election-day malfunctions of e-pollbooks in a heavily Democratic county of North Carolina.

I enclose below written statements from Pate, Olson, and Jim Mowrer, one of two Democrats running for secretary of state. Mowrer asserted Pate “failed to take this threat seriously” and “has misled Iowans by claiming that no attempts were made to access Iowa’s election systems.” The other Democratic candidate, Deidre DeJear, linked to a Rachel Maddow segment about the news on her social media feeds, commenting, “This is not good, folks. There is no good reason why our current Secretary of State should neglect communicating important matters, regarding the security of our vote.”

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"We can do better": Deidre DeJear's case for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats are set to have their first competitive primary for secretary of state since 1998. Deidre DeJear launched her campaign last month on the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, to symbolize her commitment to increasing voter participation.

DeJear spoke to Bleeding Heartland at length about her candidacy, and I’ve posted highlights from that interview after the jump, along with the audio and full transcript of her remarks to a Democratic audience in Grinnell. You can follow her campaign on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

DeJear’s approach to the race is markedly different from that of Jim Mowrer, the other Democrat in the field. Mowrer came out swinging against Secretary of State Paul Pate, vowing “to say no to making it harder and more expensive to vote” and highlighting the failure to count nearly 6,000 votes in Dallas County last November. In contrast, DeJear says little about Pate in her campaign materials and stump speech. She didn’t bring up the Dallas County debacle in our interview either.

Pate is very unpopular among Democratic activists since pushing for new restrictions on voting that will create barriers for certain populations. Nor is the secretary of state well-liked by county auditors, some of whom have already endorsed Mowrer. I suspect many 2018 primary voters will be drawn to a candidate willing to take the fight to Pate, relentlessly.

On the other hand, DeJear’s more aspirational, positive message should resonate with Democrats who prefer candidates to talk about what they are for, not what they’re against. I look forward to following this race.

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