Why is Iowa (again) struggling with racism?

Athena Gilbraith is a racial justice activist in eastern Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

This week Republican legislators on the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee took on school officials in Ames to contest cultural competency. To challenge a celebration of Black America and Black Iowans, these lawmakers chose to center dehumanization.

Representative Bobby Kaufmann described Black History Month teaching materials as “garbage,” while Representative Steven Holt amplified whataboutism, a dog whistle in shepherding white supremacy. (Editor’s note: You can watch the committee hearing here or listen to the audio here.)

Between the extreme new voter suppression law, the bill to codify “qualified immunity” for law enforcement, and limiting diversity training at Iowa universities, the goal appears to be to reproduce racial inequality in our state. 

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It's hard to believe this legislative session is real

Bruce Lear covers some low points of this year’s Republican work in the Iowa House and Senate. -promoted by Laura Belin

Even though this Iowa legislative session may seem like a sketch from Saturday Night Live, it’s real.

But if it had a theme, it might be “Solutions in search of a problem,” or maybe “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.”

In a legislative session this extreme, it’s really hard to focus on specific bills solving nonexistent problems, not because they are hard to find, but because there are so many.

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Revised GOP election bill would exclude thousands more Iowa voters

UPDATE: Governor Reynolds signed the bill on March 8. Top Democratic election attorney Marc Elias posted on Twitter, “This is the first major suppression law since the 2020 election. Expect litigation here and elsewhere GOP legislatures follow this path.” Bleeding Heartland covered the lawsuit Elias filed here. Original post follows.

On a party-line vote of 30 to 18, the Iowa Senate on February 23 approved Senate File 413, a new version of a bill that would restrict every aspect of the early voting process. The following day, the Iowa House approved the bill on a party-line 57 to 37 vote. Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill; Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have each endorsed limits on early voting in recent days.

Although State Senator Roby Smith’s amendment addressed a few of the concerns raised by county auditors and advocates for vulnerable populations, the revised legislation would make it even harder for thousands of Iowans to have their absentee ballots counted. In a new twist, it shortens election-day voting hours as well.

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Iowa Republicans unveil assault on early voting

UPDATE: The Iowa Senate and House approved a revised version of this bill on February 23 and 24. Original post follows.

Republican-controlled states “are increasingly not ‘laboratories of democracy,’ but ‘laboratories of democratic backsliding,’” political scientist Jake Grumbach noted in a new article by Perry Bacon Jr. for FiveThirtyEight.com.

Look no further than the Iowa legislature, where House and Senate Republicans unveiled a wide-ranging election bill on February 16. The 37-page legislation would make it much harder for Iowans to obtain and cast absentee ballots, either using the mail or voting early in person.

While House Republicans worked with Democrats to remove many voter suppression provisions from election bills the Iowa Senate had approved in 2019 and 2020, House State Government Committee chair Bobby Kaufmann is now on board with every piece of this year’s attempt to make it harder for Iowans to vote.

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