Don't make more than 52,000 Iowans wait until 2023 to vote

Governor Kim Reynolds asked Iowa lawmakers today to start the process of amending the state constitution to remove the lifetime ban on voting by those who have committed “infamous crimes,” which under current law are defined as all felony offenses.

A constitutional amendment would be the best long-term fix for an unfair system that disproportionately affects racial minorities and those lacking the funds to navigate the restoration process. So the Iowa House and Senate should certainly heed the governor’s call. But it’s difficult to get a constitutional amendment through both chambers of the legislature, and the soonest an amendment could be enacted would be November 2022.

Reynolds and state lawmakers can and should take immediate steps to allow tens of thousands of Iowans to participate in this year’s local elections, the 2020 caucuses, and the primary and general elections of 2020 and 2022.

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Our new year of progress

On Wednesday, January 2 2019, Linn County Supervisor-elect Stacey Walker was sworn into office and voted chair of the new three-member board. Walker is the first African American to hold the position and serve as chairperson of the governing body of Iowa’s second most populous county. After he was sworn in, he shared the following remarks. -promoted by Laura Belin

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Racism evident in Iowa justice system

Iowa has long been one of the worst states for racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Gwen Hope reviews some depressing relevant data. -promoted by desmoinesdem

If you’ve been convicted of falling short of the law in Iowa, it pays to be white. This is nothing new, racial bias nationwide has long been a known and understood problem rooted in the prejudices of the past and present. How much bias, however, might surprise some people.

This is nearly 2019, after all, many white Americans live as if racism is a thing of the past no longer dealt with in their illusory post-racial modern world. In 2018, the evidence here in Iowa shows the continuation of one of the longest, most abhorrent trends in US history – white privilege, black punishment.

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Criminal justice reform caps Grassley tenure heading Judiciary Committee

Both Senator Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted for a criminal justice reform bill that cleared the U.S. Senate on December 18 by a resounding 87 votes to 12 (roll call). Iowa’s senators were also part of the bipartisan majority that rejected three Republican amendments, described by one advocacy group as poison pills “aimed at gutting the substance and intent of the bill.”

Grassley wasn’t an early advocate of criminal justice reform, especially sentencing reform. As recently as March 2015, he slammed what he called the “leniency industrial complex,” which favored reducing long mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. But he came around about three years ago and helped build Republican support for the current bill, commonly known as the First Step Act.

In one of his final acts as Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Grassley pushed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly and privately to bring the legislation to the Senate floor. After yesterday’s votes, New York Times photographer Sarah Silbiger captured images of Grassley celebrating with Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who has helped lead the charge on this issue.

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As criminal probes advanced, Whitaker met with Trump, Kushner

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker met with President Donald Trump and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the morning of December 7, hours before federal prosecutors released three briefs recounting crimes and misconduct by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Cameron Joseph of Talking Points Memo saw Kushner and Whitaker boarding Marine One, the helicopter carrying the president, around 9:00 am. The meeting was improper because Whitaker will continue to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller for at least another month.

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Waukee School District audit exposes more shenanigans (updated)

Tyler Higgs is an activist in Clive and a former candidate for Waukee school board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The audit report of Waukee School District has been released, exposing more incidents of corrupt and/or inept management at the highest levels of the district. The full report is enclosed below, along with a summary of key findings.

I previously discussed some of these issues, but for those unfamiliar with the ongoing saga, here’s a refresher:

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