Exclusive: New Iowa absentee rules disenfranchised hundreds in 2022 primary

New restrictions on absentee voting prevented hundreds of Iowans from having their ballots counted in the June 7 primary election, Bleeding Heartland’s review of data from county auditors shows.

About 150 ballots that would have been valid under previous Iowa law were not counted due to a bill Republican legislators and Governor Kim Reynolds enacted in 2021, which required all absentee ballots to arrive at county auditors’ offices by 8:00 pm on election day. The majority of Iowans whose ballots arrived too late (despite being mailed before the election) were trying to vote in the Republican primary.

Hundreds more Iowans would have been able to vote by mail prior to the 2021 changes, but missed the new deadline for submitting an absentee ballot request form. More than half of them did not manage to cast a ballot another way in the June 7 election.

The new deadlines will trip up many more Iowans for the November election, when turnout will likely be about three times the level seen in this year’s primary, and more “snowbirds” attempt to vote by mail in Iowa from other states.

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50 years ago, a victory for women's bodily autonomy in West Des Moines

Ken Tilp was a high school teacher of Latin and French for 21 years before becoming president of the Iowa State Education Association for four years. He then worked for the Michigan Education Association for fourteen years, retiring in 2004.

It’s the 50th anniversary of a significant change in the West Des Moines, Iowa, school district personnel policy manual: teachers were no longer required to tell their building principal as soon as they found out they were pregnant.

The school board authorized a committee to review personnel policy, comprised of Bruce Graves, a school board member and young, progressive lawyer; Assistant Superintendent Mel Antrim (known to the elementary teachers as “Apple ass Antrim”); and Ken Tilp, 7th year teacher of Latin and president of the 300-member teachers association.

Catch this: during our discussion about why the requirement should be removed, Antrim said something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t know if I want my child sitting in a classroom with a teacher’s water breaking.”

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Kim Reynolds doesn't want to know about Donald Trump's crimes

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6, 2021 coup attempt, Governor Kim Reynolds condemned the attack on the U.S. Capitol and called for prosecuting those who incited violence “to the full extent.”

But as a U.S. House Select Committee uncovers more evidence of former President Donald Trump’s apparent criminal conspiracy to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, Reynolds is “not paying any attention” to the investigation, she told reporters this week.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Striped white violet

After severely fracturing my ankle in January, I don’t walk easily on uneven ground, so didn’t get out to photograph wildflowers as often as usual this spring. Fortunately, I was able to find plenty of this week’s featured plants in my own back yard.

Striped white violets (Viola striata) are not nearly as prevalent as common blue violets (Viola sororia), but they are found throughout Iowa and in about 20 states in the eastern part of the U.S. They are sometimes known as striped cream violet or pale violet. According to the Illinois Wildflowers website, “This species doesn’t invade lawns because its stems are too long. It is relatively easy to cultivate in gardens.”

I usually start seeing striped white violets in April, but this year’s cold spring delayed the blooming period by several weeks. I took all of the photographs enclosed below (except one) between mid-May and early June in Windsor Heights.

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For PTSD Awareness Month, veterans need allies and advocates

David Farwell of Spillville, Iowa is a service-connected PTSD disabled veteran and activist for veteran health services as owed to them by law.  

I’ve moved 49 times in 50 years, which is not surprising for a military brat and former global project leader at an international corporation.  

What may be surprising is why my last move was from a Chicago high-rise to Spillville, Iowa, and how an invisible epidemic shattered my life, ended my career and brought me to the tiny town in Iowa where Dvorak completed his New World Symphony.

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A cleaner grid is a more reliable, resilient grid

Andy Johnson is executive director of Clean Energy Districts of Iowa, which was first to publish this commentary.

The June 2 print edition of the Des Moines Register led with the headline, “Iowans warned of rolling blackouts.” Utility sources quoted in the article repeatedly tried to connect the growth of renewable energy with a less reliable grid.

As Mark Twain said: “Few things are more irritating than when someone who is wrong is also very effective in making his point.” Sure, it sounds sensible that closing “baseload” coal plants and replacing them with “variable” renewables is a recipe for disaster. But that logic actually mixes apples and oranges—or corn and beans, or uff-da: 4-H and Future Farmers of America!

Here’s why we can’t blame renewables for the current grid challenges. In fact, the opposite is true: a clean energy future is the best recipe for a healthy, wealthy Iowa and a reliable, affordable grid.

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Reynolds seeks legal do-over to reinstate 2018 abortion ban

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on June 28 that she will seek to lift an injunction on a 2018 law that would have banned almost all abortions in Iowa. After that law was struck down in early 2019, Reynolds opted not to appeal the decision, due to an Iowa Supreme Court precedent that is no longer operative.

The governor will also ask the Iowa Supreme Court to rehear a recently-decided abortion case, taking into account the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion that overturned the Roe v Wade and Casey precedents.

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Pigs, poker, and prisons: remembering Carlos Jayne

Marty Ryan first published this reflection on the life and legacy of his good friend Carlos Jayne (1935-2022) on his blog.

As he lived, he died—fighting authority!

Legendary NFL Coach Bill Parcells said, “A friend’s someone that knows all about you and likes you anyway.” Carlos and I liked each other, even though he was a big Green Bay Packers fan, and the Pack was my least favorite football team. Therefore, we never talked football. We had coffee and chatted for about two hours monthly. As his health slipped from him, the frequency of our visits diminished.

I first met Carlos when I was a novice lobbyist for the Iowa Civil Liberties Union (now the ACLU of Iowa) and a bill reinstating the death penalty was introduced. A fellow lobbyist pointed at Carlos and told me, “You need to talk to that guy.” I introduced myself to him and he said: “It’s about damned time the ICLU had a lobbyist up here,” and he turned, walked away, and continued to do what he did—talk to anyone who would listen.

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2022 election merits more concern than Iowa caucuses

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Worse things could befall Iowa and the nation than the Iowa caucus losing its “first-in-the-nation” status in presidential election years.

For example, it might be worse if the state kept that status and was viewed as a bellwether in the 2024 election.

Let’s face it. Iowa has little left of the virtues that had the state press routinely boasting about Iowa being “the center of the political universe” when it came to January and February every four years.

For an art-becomes-life perspective, consider a 1947 movie that kind of foretold the story of the Iowa caucuses.

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How far can Iowa Republicans go to ban abortion? (updated)

The worst-case scenario for bodily autonomy in Iowa played out over the past ten days. First, the Iowa Supreme Court on June 17 overturned its own 2018 precedent that established a fundamental right to abortion, protected by the state constitution. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that established a federal constitutional right to an abortion, and the related Casey decision of 1992.

Top Iowa Republicans immediately promised further action to restrict abortion, which is now legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s not yet clear when they will try to pass a new law, which exceptions (if any) may be on the table, or whether a ban modeled on other state laws could survive an Iowa court challenge.

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How did we get here? An analysis of the Dobbs decision

Bleeding Heartland user “Bill from White Plains” is an Iowa attorney.

Now that five U.S. Supreme Court justices have overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent when deciding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I thought it might be helpful to do a deep dive into the legal bases for that decision. Most folks see this as a “results-oriented” ruling, “judicial activism” done by “unelected judges” superseding “the will of the people.”

As with most Supreme Court cases, the popular press has focused on the result (ending any federal constitutional right to an abortion), rather than the legal framework. More often than not, our discourse parrots what we read and hear from the media. It is important to learn how the Supreme Court majority reached this outcome, because for the rest of our lives, that legal framework may impact civil rights most of us have taken for granted for decades.

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Republicans want to kill us. Democrats need to talk about it

C.J. Petersen chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Stonewall Caucus.

When my husband and I walk into a restaurant in rural Iowa and sit down, nobody assumes there’s something going on between us. I’m a heavyset, cisgender white guy with a beard. More than once, people have assumed we were brothers or–to my chagrin–that I was his father (only six years separate us, by the way, but at 32, I’m blessed by genetics with salt-and-pepper hair).

Because of this dynamic, I know that I enjoy an immense amount of privilege to be able to live authentically and thrive in rural western Iowa. I know this, too, from listening to the experiences of Black, brown, transgender, and non-binary folks, who tell me how they fear for their safety when they visit my part of Iowa (we’re not yet two years removed from having been represented by Steve King). Their experiences are valid, and none of us is safe while any of our lives are threatened.

As chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Stonewall Caucus, a constituency group of LGBTQ+ folks who guide the party’s positions on issues that affect our community, my job is to elect Democrats–specifically, Democrats who support LGBTQ+ people and act as allies in our continued fight for equality and justice.

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The "d—d Yankee Church"

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

Rebecca Jane Clark was born September 15, 1849, three months after the city of Bloomington, Iowa changed its name to Muscatine. As a small child, she watched construction of a fine, brick church building at West 3rd and Chestnut streets.

Familiar as it became to her, that building was never her church. Rebecca and her family attended the African Methodist Episcopal where her father was the Sunday school superintendent, across Papoose Creek and most of the way up 7th Street hill. Their simple, rough building was also where she would attend the “African” school with her siblings and other “colored” children of the town.

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Hearing obliterates Grassley's excuses for Trump on pressuring DOJ

Senator Chuck Grassley has not been following the work of the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, he told Dr. Bob Leonard of KNIA-KRLS Radio this week.

He should have watched the televised hearings on June 23. The focus was how President Donald Trump tried to use the U.S. Department of Justice to help him subvert the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election. The key elements of that conspiracy have been known since the Senate Judiciary Committee investigated that angle last year. But witnesses and exhibits provided many new details.

The testimony from former administration officials and Trump attorneys obliterated the alternate reality Grassley promoted last year, in which the president “did not exert improper influence on the Justice Department.”

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Ernst votes for gun violence package

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst was among fifteen Republicans who joined the entire Democratic caucus on June 23 to advance a package designed to reduce gun violence.

Senator Chuck Grassley and 33 other GOP senators opposed the cloture motion to end debate (roll call), which under Senate rules needed 60 votes to pass.

Neither Ernst nor Grassley has released a statement on today’s vote or mentioned it on their social media feeds.

The bill includes:

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sedges

Leland Searles is consultant and owner of Leeward Solutions, LLC, a company that offers regulatory and non-regulatory environmental services. For more information, see Leeward’s website at http://www.leewardecology.com. All photos of sedges enclosed below are Leland’s work and published with permission.

You have walked on them, looked at them, maybe even pulled the seed stem to nibble on the tender base, as though it were a grass. But it isn’t.

Sedges are an important, often overlooked group of native plants. In Iowa there are at least 125 species belonging to one genus, Carex.

Carex sedges often are overlooked because they look so much like grasses. And with wide variation in their appearance and very tiny details, they are a daunting group of plants to learn. But with patience, those details also lead to small moments of awe and wonder at the different symmetries and adaptations of each.

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Dangerous gun amendment on Iowa's November ballot

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

On June 15, as many as a dozen Kansas City area schools shut down summer classes when a generalized threat was posted on Snapchat. A 19-year-old suspect has been charged with making a terrorist threat.

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board commented, “If lawmakers won’t do what most Americans want and pass some real, effective and warranted restrictions on gun access, then we are left with drilling children on how to react when a gunman comes into their school.”

That’s just where Governor Kim Reynolds wants Iowa schools to be — battened down, armed, drilled, quivering, guarded, and under desks.

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Only five applied for Iowa Supreme Court vacancy

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview an unusually small number of applicants for the Iowa Supreme Court vacancy to be created when Justice Brent Appel reaches the mandatory retirement age next month.

Only five people—three judges and two attorneys in private practice—applied for the position, the Iowa Judicial Branch announced on June 20. The commission will interview Third Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Tott, Ames attorney Timothy Gartin, Des Moines attorney William Miller, District Court Judge Alan Heavens, and Iowa Court of Appeals Judge David May on June 27. The commissioners will send three names to Governor Kim Reynolds, who will have 30 days to appoint the next justice from that short list.

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A modest proposal

Ira Lacher offers a modest proposal for dealing with the issue of firearms.

In Chicago, a concealed-carry-holder in Chicago shoots a 19-year-old armed with a knife.

In Philadelphia, legally armed drivers foil carjackers three times.

In Des Moines, a woman walks into a Hy-Vee, is assaulted by another woman, pulls out a gun and shoots her.

Clearly, we are on to something here.

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Iowa Supreme Court's abortion reversal may cast long shadow

Five Iowa Supreme Court justices allowed a 24-hour waiting period for all abortions to go into effect and opened the door to more sweeping restrictions on June 17, when justices overturned the court’s 2018 precedent that had found the Iowa Constitution protects a fundamental right to seek an abortion.

The outcome is precisely what Republican legislators were seeking two years ago, when (buoyed by unusually rapid turnover on Iowa’s highest court) they passed a law nearly identical to the one struck down in the 2018 case.

Two dissenting justices warned that the latest decision injects “instability” and “confusion” into Iowa’s legal landscape, because the court’s majority did not establish a new standard for evaluating the constitutionality of abortion restrictions. Two justices signaled they would allow almost any limits on the procedure. Three justices indicated they might be open to a similar approach, or might strike a different balance that recognizes some bodily autonomy for Iowans wanting to terminate a pregnancy.

In the words of Justice Brent Appel, the majority set forth “a jurisprudence of doubt about a liberty interest of the highest possible importance to every Iowa woman of reproductive age.”

The ruling may also undermine public confidence that Iowa Supreme Court rulings are grounded in legal analysis, rather than politics.

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