# Election Reform

Weekend open thread: Huckabee passes on 2012

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced on his Fox show last night that he will not be a candidate for president in 2012. I doubt many people were surprised, because Huckabee had done little to lay the groundwork for a campaign. Shortly after Huckabee visited Iowa on a book tour earlier this year, his 2008 state campaign manager Eric Woolson signed on with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Several other influential Huckabee backers from the last go-around are committed to other candidates as well, including State Senator Kent Sorenson and Wes Enos (now backing Representative Michele Bachmann) and former leaders of the Iowa Family Policy Center (supporting Judge Roy Moore).

It’s anyone’s guess who will benefit most from Huckabee’s absence. Every poll of Iowa Republican caucus-goers I’ve seen this year has put Huckabee in the lead. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney typically places second in those surveys, but he has signaled that he won’t campaign hard in Iowa this year. Judging from how other potential Republican presidential candidates reacted to yesterday’s news, Huckabee’s endorsement will be highly prized.

This story caught my eye: former Governor Chet Culver is co-chairing the National Popular Vote campaign, which seeks to ensure that the winner of the presidential election is the candidate who receives the most popular votes. Since a U.S. constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college would never be ratified by enough states, the National Popular Vote campaign is seeking to prevent a repeat of the 2000 presidential election.

I was surprised to see Culver on board. When an Iowa Senate committee approved legislation in 2009 to assign Iowa’s electors to the winner of the nationwide popular vote (if enough other states approved the same reform), Culver spoke out against the bill. He warned, “If we require our Electoral College votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state.” Then Secretary of State Michael Mauro also opposed the bill, saying, “Under this proposal, it is hard to foresee Iowa maintaining its dominant role and expect candidates to spend their final hours campaigning in our state when they will be focused on capturing the popular vote in much larger states.” Todd Dorman views the national popular vote campaign as an “end-around” the normal constitutional amendment process, but I support the getting rid of the electoral college by the only practical means available. The president should be the person who receives the most votes.

May is Bike to Work Month, and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition has lots of resources to support recreational or commuter bicyclists. The Urban Country Bicycle blog posted about a study that showed the average worker in this country works 500 hours a year (about two hours per working day) just to pay for their cars.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Huckabee’s Fox News contract played a big part in his decision not to run for president.

Governor Terry Branstad used his weekly press conference on May 16 to urge Republicans candidates to compete in Iowa:

“This is probably going to be the most wide-open, competitive race we’ve ever had for the Iowa caucuses,” Branstad said. “This is a state where a candidate – with hard work and retail politics, going to all 99 counties and meeting with people and answering the questions – this is a state where you can effectively launch a campaign. And it’s not too late.” […]

Branstad publicly took issue with [former New Hampshire GOP Chair Fergus] Cullen’s editorial, which said, “Iowa Republicans have marginalized themselves to the point where competing in Iowa has become optional.”

“Mr. Cullen couldn’t be further from the facts,” Branstad said. “The truth is that Iowa is a full-spectrum state. I think the primary election that I won last year proves that. I would also point out that the front-runner, Mike Huckabee, made a decision over the weekend, which is momentous. He is not running this time, which means he got the largest block of votes in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and those are up for grabs.”

Cullen’s editorial is here; I posted excerpts here.

Branstad’s close associate Doug Gross, who co-chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in Iowa, has long warned that the caucuses are not hospitable to moderate candidates. In November 2008, he said, “[W]e’ve gone so far to the social right in terms of particularly caucus attendees that unless you can meet certain litmus tests, if you will, you have a very difficult time competing in Iowa.” But Gross had a very different message today:

I think this is a different year because largely with Huckabee getting out, you’ll have multiple social conservatives in the race. As a result of that, they’ll divide up a lot of the Caucus vote and there’ll be an opportunity for a mainstream Republican to come in and do surprisingly well here. If I were Mitt Romney and I wanted to be the nominee for president, I’d play in Iowa this time because if you win in Iowa this time you have a chance to win the nomination.”

Talk radio conservative Steve Deace shared his perspective as an enthusiastic Huck supporter in 2008 who has grown disillusioned more recently: “Ideologically, the Huckabee of today sounds a lot more like the Rod Roberts of 2010 than the [Bob] Vander Plaats of 2010.”

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Keep early ballots sealed until election day

On Wednesday IowaVoter posted a diary here about a bill passed by the Iowa House to allow absentee ballots to be counted before election day. Click here to read the text of HF 670, formerly known as HSB 133.

IowaVoter uses humor to raise valid concerns about this bill. Quite a few people could be tipped off about the early voting results, and if they leak the information, some candidates could gain an advantage on election day. Lots of state legislative races in Iowa were decided by very narrow margins last November, and it is not uncommon for a local or county-level race to be decided by a handful of votes.

I can’t see any public interest served by this bill. Even though early voting has grown in Iowa, with about a third of the electorate casting early ballots last fall, we still got our election results promptly.

Mr. desmoinesdem pointed me to this site, which shows that only California and Colorado allow early ballots to be counted before election day. Many states don’t allow them to be opened until after the polls close on election day (Iowa law currently allows counting to begin the morning of election day).

I can understand why many would support early counting of absentee ballots in a huge state like California. Even though California election officials were allowed to start counting on October 25 of last year, some had hundreds of thousands of votes still uncounted after election day. But California has three counties more populous than all of Iowa, six more counties with at least 1 million residents, plus another 12 counties that have more residents than Iowa’s largest county (Polk).

There is no logistical need for county auditors in Iowa to open the early ballots before election day. I would rather wait a few more hours for the final results than open the door to political mischief by insiders.

HF 670 is worse than a solution in search of a problem–it’s a solution that could spark allegations of fraud and misconduct every time we have a very close election outcome. The Iowa Senate should reject this bill. If they pass it, Governor Culver should veto it.

Saving the electoral college will not keep Iowa relevant

Both Governor Chet Culver and Secretary of State Mike Mauro have now come out against a bill that would award Iowa’s electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Their opposition in effect kills any chance of the bill advancing. Although it has been voted out of committee in the Iowa Senate, it may never come to a floor vote there or a committee vote in the Iowa House.

I don’t know what so many people have against one person, one vote for president, just like we have for every other elected office. I also take issue with this part of Culver’s statement:

As the last three elections have shown, Iowa is now a battleground state, and, as such, the issues of Iowans are heard by the candidates of both parties. If we require our electoral college votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state and the opportunity to ensure that the ideas that are important on Iowa’s Main Streets remain important on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the governor wants to buy into Republican propaganda about this bill, fine. But let’s not pretend Iowa is bound to be a swing state forever. Oregon was a battleground state for a few cycles, but John McCain didn’t seriously compete for it this year. West Virginia was a battleground state in 2000, but hopeless territory for Democrats in 2004 and 2008.

Democratic gains in voter registration could make this purple state blue if Culver and the statehouse Democrats give us a solid record of achievements to run on in 2010. If that happens, don’t count on Iowa’s six electoral votes being up for grabs during the 2012 general election.

I am also unconvinced that the electoral college ensures presidential candidates pay attention to small states. When was the last time a presidential candidate spent time in uncompetitive small states like the Dakotas, Montana, or Vermont?

John Deeth is right:

# The person with the most votes should win.

# It would be better if the Constitution actually said so.

# But National Popular Vote is a nice stopgap.

# If big states want National Popular Vote, it will pass without Iowa.

# The caucuses, not the electoral votes, are what makes Iowa important.

And about those caucuses: we won’t have competitive caucuses on the Democratic side in 2012, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some major Republican presidential candidates skip Iowa. It didn’t stop McCain from winning the nomination last year.

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What election reforms does Iowa need?

John Deeth posted a good summary of bills on the election process that the Iowa legislature may consider this year. I agree with Deeth that teenagers who will be 18 by election day should be able to register at any point during the calendar year of the election, and that Iowa should keep its late poll closing time (9 pm).

Unfortunately, no one appears willing to step up and lead on the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) act, which would create a voluntary public-financing system for state elections. It’s worked very well, commanding bipartisan support, in states like Arizona and Maine.

Our Democratic leaders in Iowa seem to enjoy the current system, where special interests flood the capitol with money and individuals can give as much as they want to incumbents.

This is one reason why I’ve been saying no to all solicitations for the Iowa House and Senate Democrats’ funds. I will give to individual legislators and candidates who share my priorities–not to a fund that increases the power of leaders standing in the way of change.

I note with amusement that some legislators would have us believe it’s important to prevent candidates and their spouses from receiving a salary from campaign funds. No one who follows politics can credibly argue that this is the biggest ethical issue related to campaign finance.

I agree with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, which wrote of last year’s attempt to close the “Fallon loophole,”

A thistle to Democratic legislators who would bar candidates from drawing a salary from campaign donors. This bill (aimed at Ed Fallon, who is challenging Leonard Boswell) is an Incumbent Protection Act. Challengers who give up day jobs to run for office must fend for themselves or be independently wealthy. Meanwhile, the taxpayers support or subsidize incumbents. If contributors want to spend their own money for the care and feeding of a candidate, it is no business of the Iowa Legislature.

I wonder how many of the legislators backing this bill have a problem with Joe Biden, who has employed his sister Valerie Biden Owens to manage all of his Senate and presidential campaigns.

The legalized corruption in our political system has nothing to do with a handful of candidates drawing salaries and everything to do with the excessive influence of wealthy individuals and corporate interests.

Share your suggestions for improving Iowa’s election law in this thread.

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Kiernan can't do it alone

Congratulations to Des Moines City Council member Michael Kiernan, who was elected to chair the Iowa Democratic Party on Saturday, along with First Vice-Chair Sue Dvorsky, Second Vice-Chair Chris Peterson, Treasurer Ken Sagar and Secretary Dori Rammelsberg-Dvorak.

I was pleased to read Kiernan’s remarks from his first press conference:

“We have over 100,000 new registered voters in this state who are Democrats, hundreds of new activists. I think our key is to keep these folks in the party, to bring them home permanently. I think they’ve stopped by for a visit, and it’s our job to reach out to those new voters and bring them home permanently.”  

Kiernan said Democrats will use new technology, social platforms and grassroots engagement to bring additional people into the party and bring newly registered Democrats home to roost.

“Now it’s about telling these folks that they’re welcome in our party and making sure that they know they have a seat at our table permanently” […]

Kiernan echoed these points in the press release from the Iowa Democratic Party, which I’ve posted after the jump.

It’s good to know the IDP’s leader understands that we can’t count on first-time Democratic voters to continue to support the party. This is especially true because President Barack Obama will not be on the ballot in 2010. Many newly-registered Iowa Democrats were mobilized by Obama’s presidential campaign.

Kiernan noted his family’s tradition of “Democratic public service” on Saturday. He seems to be no more than two degrees of separation removed from anyone who’s anyone in Iowa Democratic circles. Tom Harkin held one of his first steak fry events at the Kiernans’ family farm.

I expect that this political legacy will greatly shorten Kiernan’s learning curve as the new party chairman. His mother, Joan Kiernan, has been a Democratic activist for decades and served as the IDP’s secretary in the past.

Michael Kiernan has also had a close-up view of election campaigns at all levels. His father ran successfully for the Madison County supervisors. His mother was involved in Dick Gephardt’s presidential campaigns. Michael Kiernan managed Chet Culver’s first bid for secretary of state in 1998 and Preston Daniels’ successful mayoral campaign in Des Moines the same year. He also won a special election for a seat on the Des Moines City Council in 2004. (He has not disclosed whether he plans to seek re-election to that position this fall.)

With this extensive campaign experience, Kiernan has seen what works and what doesn’t work for Iowa Democrats. That’s bound to help the IDP’s “coordinated campaign” going into the 2010 midterms. The national political environment is likely to be less favorable for Democrats than it was in 2006 and 2008, so the IDP will have to be at the top of its game in getting out the vote. (It can’t hurt that Kiernan is on good terms with labor union officials.)

Turnout is always lower in midterm elections. In 2006, about 1.05 million Iowans cast ballots for governor, whereas turnout in the most recent presidential election was about 1.5 million. Clearly not all of the newly-registered Democrats will vote in 2010, but even if only half of them turn out, that could give Democrats a significant advantage.

Kiernan and other party leaders can do plenty to build on the IDP’s success with early voting, but the mechanics of GOTV efforts won’t be enough to keep new voters in the Democratic fold.

Here’s where Governor Chet Culver and the Democratic leadership in the state legislature come in. Coasting on the usual advantages of incumbency is not going to be enough, especially if the economy is still in bad shape in 2010.

The best way to change Iowa from a purple state to a blue state is for Democratic elected officials to deliver real, lasting change. That will involve taking on some big problems despite the political risks. In a time of budget scarcity, state legislators can’t just throw money at a lot of popular programs.

Nothing succeeds like success. If Democrats can show that their governance made a tangible difference in the lives of Iowans, it will be easier to give voters a reason to back Culver and Democratic legislators again in 2010. I’ve got a few suggestions:

-Reduce the influence of money in politics by approving a voluntary “clean elections” system on the model of Maine or Arizona;

-Reject new coal fired power plants (as several of our neighboring states have done) and increase our capacity to generate wind and solar power;

-Allow “local control” of large hog confinements (agricultural zoning at the county level);

-Make progress toward providing light rail in the Ames/Ankeny/Des Moines and Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridors.

I can’t say I’m optimistic about the Democratic leadership taking on any of those tasks, because powerful corporate interests could line up against them.

But I am convinced that we need to have something big to show for four years of Democratic control at the statehouse and Terrace Hill. Give Kiernan something to sell to the voters he’s trying to keep in the Democratic fold.

The IDP’s press release announcing Kiernan’s election is after the jump.

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Allow instant-runoff voting in Iowa elections

Jim Paprocki makes a strong case for instant-runoff voting in Saturday’s Des Moines Register:

Instant runoff voting is a winner-take-all system that, in only one election, ensures a winning candidate receives a majority of votes. This voting reform also is cost-effective because it eliminates the need for a separate runoff.

Instant runoff is consistent with Iowa’s caucus tradition. The Democratic Party caucuses allow participants to support their second-choice candidate when their first-choice candidate is no longer viable.

In instant runoff voting, each voter has an opportunity to make a second choice and third choice among candidates running in the election. If none of the candidates wins a majority, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated. The ballots of the voters who ranked that candidate as their first-choice are then redistributed to their second-choice candidate. The counting of ballots simulates a series of runoff elections. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority of all votes.

Although instant runoff voting may appear more complicated than our current voting system, it really is no different from stating a preference for A, B and C in the voting booth. Research shows that voters favor instant runoff voting and find it to be user-friendly.

Instant-runoff voting prevents longshot primary candidates or third-party general-election candidates from being “spoilers.” Voters can express their preference for the candidate who speaks for them and put the “lesser of two evils” down as a second choice.

Paprocki notes that the Iowa Code currently prohibits cities from introducing instant-runoff voting, so legislative action would be required to make this happen.

This may not be high on legislators’ priority lists, but considering the budget crunch affecting government at all levels, it would be wise to enact election reform that saves money while reflecting the will of the people.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

Send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) or post a comment if you know of another event that should be added to this calendar.

Sunday, January 18:

From Blog for Iowa (click the link for more details):

On Sunday, January 18, the Iowa City Environmental Film Festival and Sierra Club will sponsor a screening of Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars.  The film portrays how Texans formed unlikely coalitions to fight the construction of nineteen coal-fired power plants being fast-tracked by the state’s governor, Rick Perry.  The film, narrated by Robert Redford, has received numerous awards.

Representatives from two groups instrumental in challenging the construction of the two plants in Iowa will lead a discussion following the film.  Mike Carberry, Sierra Club, will be joined by Carrie LeSeur, founder and Executive Director of Plains Justice, to talk about what is being done and what Iowans can do to stop construction of the coal-fired power plants.   Plains Justice, a public interest law center, was founded in 2006 in part in response to the Waterloo, Iowa Coal Plant Proposal, which has now been withdrawn.        

[…] Sunday, January 18th at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Room A at 3:00 PM.

The screening is free and open to the public.

Monday, January 19:

From Polk County Democrats:

From Vern Naffier

Come to the Pre-Inauguration Celebration

Friends:  Join me Monday night at 7 pm at the State Historical Building for an inspiring event celebrating Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Barack Obama’s inauguration, and the beginning of an era of peace, reconciliation, and social justice throughout the world. See announcement below.


Rebirthing King – Rebirthing America

A pre-inauguration celebration

State Historical Building

600 East Locust

Des Moines

January 19, 2009

7-8 pm

Come join the effort to reclaim the dream of America free from racism, militarism, and materialism. Come join the candlelight march for Martin’s memory and Barack’s beginning.

The Iowa Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee invites you to bring items for the DMARC Food Pantry.

Sponsored by the King Birthday Celebration Planning Committee

Tuesday, January 20:

George W. Bush’s presidency will finally end as Barack Obama takes the oath of office. What are you doing to celebrate? There must be many parties going on all over this state.

Urban Dreams Presents

Brown, Black & The Blues People’s Ball

Celebrating the Inauguration of

President Barack Obama

Together through the diversity of our community

Jnauary 20, 2009

8:00 PM until…

Hotel Fort Des Moines

1000 Walnut Street

Des Moines, IA  50309

$25 / person

Dress to Impress

Featuring Musica Latina, Soul and the Blues

A nonpartisan event open to the whole community

for more information please call 515-288-4742

The Brown, Black & The Blues People’s Ball is brought to you by

Project V.O.T.E. (Voting Opportunities Through Education).

PLease call Hotel Fort Des Moines at 515-243-1181 if interested in room reservations.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

There will be a Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Public Input Meeting in the DMAMPO Meeting Room, Merle Hay Center, 6200 Aurora Avenue, Suite 300W, Urbandale, IA. Click here for more details about what’s on the agenda and why you should care.

Friday, January 23:

For bicycling advocates and enthusiasts:

Iowa Bicycle Summit

January 23-24, Des Moines

Iowa Bicycle Summit will be held in Des Moines at the Holiday Inn, Downtown, from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday’s session features Steve Durrant from Portland, Oregon, a registered landscape architect and planner with over 30 years experience helping communities become better places to live. A Friday Bike Night fundraiser will feature a presentation by mountain-biking legend Gary Fisher at a dinner and silent auction. Saturday is geared for grassroots bicyclists who want to better their communities. Sessions include Safe Routes to Schools, Bike to Work Week, legislative issues and more. Primary sponsors are the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Participation is limited. Find out more or register at the Iowa Bicycle Summit webpage, http://www.iowabicyclecoalitio…

From the Iowa Environmental Council newsletter:

Winter Solstice Workshop: No Child Left Inside

January 23-25, Honey Creek State Park

The Iowa Conservation Education Coalition’s annual Environmental Education Workshop, Winter Solstice, will be held on January 23-25, 2009.  The workshop title is No Child Left Inside.  Winter Solstice will be held at the Honey Creek State Park Resort on Lake Rathbun. This new resort features motel rooms, a restaurant, an indoor water park, and most important for ICEC, a wonderful conference center. Our keynote speakers include: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder; Connie Mutel, author of The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa; and Jim Pease and Susan O’Brien author of Environmental Literacy in Iowa. For questions about the workshop, please contact Gail Barels at gail.barels@linncounty.org or Heather Niec at adminicec@hotmail.com.

Saturday, January 24:

For those who enjoy public art:

Design a Dragonfly on Ice at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory

January 24, West Lake Okoboji

Filmmaker Chad Branham will design this year’s Artslive’s People Project on Saturday, January 24, on the ice in Miller’s Bay, beginning at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. This ephemeral art project will line people up on the ice on West Lake Okoboji, in the shape of a giant 100 foot dragonfly. This design will take over 225 people to complete. Once everyone is in place the dragonfly will be photographed from an airplane by Judy Hemphill. Due to limited parking at Lakeside, participants are asked to gather at Peace Corner, at the corner of Highways 9 and 86, at 12:30 pm, and take a shuttle bus to the project site at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. People are encouraged to dress warmly and, if possible, in bright primary colors.  To sign up to participate, or for more information about participating in this year’s ArtsLive People’s Project, contact Jen Johnson at (712)332-6502 or jen@activeokoboji.org, or visit artslive.com.

Tuesday, January 27:

From Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement:

Jan. 27, 2009  

BIG Rally & Lobby Day

Mark your calendars and plan to be at our Rally & Lobby Day at the State Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 27. We need you there to show our legislators that thousands of Iowans will be holding them accountable this legislative session to issues like local control, clean elections, homeowner protections and the rights of all workers.

Decisions made at the Statehouse impact us every day. This is our chance to put our issues at the top of the legislative agenda. Join with us today – click here for more information and REGISTER TODAY!

Friday, January 30:

From Polk County Democrats:

The Ankeny Area Democrats and The Polk County Democrats Present An Inauguration Celebration Dinner At The Iowa State Historical Building

Friday, January 30, 2009

Catered by Baratta’s Restaurant

Social Hour begins at 6:00 PM

Dinner at 7:00 PM

Live music through the Musician’s Union

Tickets $25 per person

Tickets include chicken / pasta dinner and sides, soft drinks, coffee, iced tea or water

Semi-formal attire encouraged, but not required

Tickets available by calling Tamyra at 515-285-1800 or Mary Oliver at 515-964-1227

Email polkdems@gmail.com or Ankenyareadems@msn.com

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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I’ve linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I’ll do a review of Bleeding Heartland’s 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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Thank heaven for paper ballots

The recount to determine the winner of Minnesota’s Senate race has been going on for six weeks, with a court challenge likely if Al Franken, who leads narrowly, is declared the winner. (WineRev’s diaries tell you everything you need to know about what’s going on in that race.)

Imagine how much more contentious this process would be if Minnesota did not use paper ballots in every county. Less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Franken from Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. If touchscreen voting machines had been involved in any way, large numbers of people would surely believe the election had been rigged in favor of whoever came out ahead.

Mark Halvorson of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota published this piece on what has worked well during the Minnesota recount, and how the system could still be improved.

Iowa had more state legislative races decided by less than 1 percent of the vote this year than in any other election I can remember. Fortunately, the state legislature heeded Secretary of State Mike Mauro’s call to require optical scanner machines with paper ballots in every county, and Governor Chet Culver signed that bill into law this spring. Otherwise the legitimacy of these extremely close races could have been questioned.

If you run into Mauro, thank him for his efforts to improve Iowa’s voting system, and encourage him to ask the legislature to take the next step toward “verified voting” (mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records). That would allay fears about malfunctions or tampering with the optical scanners as they count the votes.

As this map at VerifiedVoting.org shows, Minnesota is one of 18 states that has mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records. Iowa is one of 13 states that require paper ballots, but without mandatory audits to make sure the scanners are producing accurate counts.

Keep your eye on the Iowa Voters blog for updates on election integrity news and activism in Iowa.

Department of lousy optics

When Governor Chet Culver scheduled a $5,000 a head fundraiser in Des Moines, he probably didn’t expect the event to fall on the same day he announced about $100 million in “painful” budget cuts.

Trust me, Bleeding Heartland’s resident troll won’t be the only one to use this convergence to push Republican talking points about Democrats no longer being the party of working people.

Last week Iowa legislative leaders appeared at a forum organized by Iowa Politics, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy characterized the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections bill as “flat-out bad”:

It would cause taxpayer money to rain down in districts where candidates typically spend far less on campaigns, and would cause corporations to control the parties, he said. Meaningful reform should come from federal lawmakers clamping down on political committees such as 501(c)4 groups that can raise unlimited money and use it to influence campaigns, he said.

Sure, because it doesn’t look “flat-out bad” for Democrats to schedule high-priced fundraisers while most families are tightening their belts.

Of course, the real problem with our current system of funding politicians isn’t the lousy optics, it’s how narrow interests are able to push through bad bills or block legislation that is in the public interest and has broad bipartisan support.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement gave a few other reasons why McCarthy is “flat-out wrong”:

McCarthy also claimed that under VOICE, corporations would “control the parties” through their contributions. Currently, corporate contributions to candidates are prohibited in Iowa, and would remain banned under VOICE. However, Iowa is one of only 13 states that have no limit on what any one individual can contribute to a candidate for public office.

In fact, McCarthy took a total of $90,000 in contributions from five individuals from out of state in 2008, and all the reports aren’t even in yet. And, $351,815 of his $652,205 came directly from Political Action Committees (PACs) representing special interests. States that have systems for publicly financed elections similar to VOICE, like Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut, have not seen an influx in 527 or PAC activity trying to influence elections. Rather, more candidates are running for office, including women and minorities. And, although these kinds of groups are already here in Iowa, CCI and other organizations last year worked for and passed legislation to force 527s to report their in-state activities. This has allowed the public to see who is contributing to organizations that try to influence our public elections.

McCarthy also claimed that VOICE would cause candidates to become lazy, “Which is absurd,” said CCI member Alice Bryan of Des Moines. “VOICE candidates will actually have to work harder, going door to door meeting constituents, rather than dialing for dollars and relying on slick mailers and TV ads. A VOICE candidate who agrees to limit their spending would truly represent their constituents, not the special interests that fund campaigns.”

Public Campaign has created an online petition you can sign if you want to tell McCarthy that “VOICE would make elections in Iowa about voters and not campaign donors.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has scheduled a Rally and Lobby Day for January 27, 2009,

to kick off the legislative session and push for VOICE, local control of factory farms, keeping families in their homes and protecting the rights of all workers.

If you care about this issue, mark your calendar.

UPDATE: Ed Fallon published an op-ed piece in Friday’s Des Moines Register called Illinois seat not only thing that’s for sale:

Blagojevich is a menace and needs to go to the gated community where other Illinois governors before him have gone. But America’s campaign-finance system is a far greater menace to democracy. If we can muster shock and disgust for Blagojevich, we should be utterly appalled at the pervasive role of money in politics.

Face it. What we call “elections” have become auctions. The auctioning of U.S. Senate seats occurs every six years – every two years for congressional and state legislative seats. Big donors, corporations and special interests “bid” on the candidate of their choice. In close races, the smart money bids on both candidates, and the one backed by the highest bidders usually wins.

We don’t want to believe our elected officials can be bought. But as someone who served for 14 years in the Iowa House, I say with confidence that what big money wants, big money usually gets. Rank-and-file lawmakers may be well-intentioned but often are strong-armed by legislative leaders beholden to corporate donors and special interests. As a result, the most pressing challenges of our time – climate change, budgetary reform, health care, farm policy, to name a few – see practically no progress year after year.

So, while I hope the good people of Illinois fire Blagojevich and fire him soon, I have a more pressing hope that Americans across the country get fired up for campaign-finance reform. In Iowa, Senator-elect Pam Jochum is leading the charge on VOICE (Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections). This bill would make it easier for rank-and-file lawmakers to stand up to party leaders, allow more citizens to run for office and give the public far greater access to the halls of power.

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Question about the order of candidates on Iowa ballots

Someone who poll-watched in a different Iowa county has informed me that the Republican candidate was listed above the Democratic candidate for every race on all of that county’s ballots.

My impression, although I didn’t look closely so can’t remember, was that in Polk County one party was not consistently above the other party on ballots.

It seems reasonable to require that the order of candidates be rotated on ballots so as not to give either party an advantage.

Bleeding Heartland readers, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you noticed one party’s candidates being consistently list first on your ballot (absentee or election-day ballot).

Check out the revamped Iowa Independent

The Iowa Independent blog unveiled a new look this week. Check it out if you haven’t already. Some recent posts include:

This story about a new law that will make it harder to challenge a voter’s qualifications to cast a ballot on election day.

This piece in which Ed Fallon and Lynn Heuss reflect on Fallon’s campaign against Leonard Boswell. Heuss correctly notes that budgeting was one of the biggest mistakes the campaign made. They hired so many staffers early in the year that when fundraising failed to meet expectations, they were unable to purchase any paid media before the June 3 primary.

This story about independent Congressional candidate William Meyers launching a new website against Iowa’s smoking ban.

This piece on a former Agriprocessors employee pleading guilty to criminal charges. I haven’t written much about the Agriprocessors scandal, and the main reason is that Iowa Independent has done such a good job of staying on top of this story.

It’s a continuing disgrace that our enforcement of immigration laws punishes workers and their families but rarely if ever punishes corporations and executives who oversee illegal hiring practices (not to mention other labor and safety violations at Agriprocessors).

(Side note: if you want to be shocked and horrified, read this New York Times story about what happened after a pregnant illegal immigrant was pulled over for a routine traffic violation in Nashville.)  

Events coming up this week (late edition)

Post a comment or shoot me an e-mail if I left out anything important.

Political events are slowing down for the summer, it seems.

The Indianola Balloon Classic starts this weekend and runs through the first weekend in August. We’ve found it’s most enjoyable to take our young children on Monday evening, when the crowds are lighter. Bring a camera so you can show the kids photos of the balloons later! Our kids love watching a slideshow of the balloons that my husband put together on his computer. Details on the balloon classic schedule and directions to the field are here.

Wednesday, July 23:

From the Sierra Club, Iowa chapter:

Here’s an opportunity for you to speak up in support of clean water.  After passage of the Clean Water Act 36 years ago and passage of a law requiring antidegradation review 21 years ago, Iowa still has no effective antidegradation implementation.  However, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be presenting a draft rule package to the Environmental Protection Commission in September.  The department has set up informational meetings across the state in July and August to share information with the public.

These meetings are an opportunity for the public to give the DNR input when making decisions about allowing pollution into our water.  It’s very important that Iowans take advantage of this opportunity and future regulatory processes, including decisions about issuing permits. The dates and sites for this first round of informational meetings are:

July 23, 2008 – Clear Lake, IA – Clear Lake Public Library – 10 AM

From ICCI:

Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) meeting this Wed in Iowa City

The VOICE bill has been endorsed by many organizations including: Democracy for America (DFA) , The Sierra Club and I-Renew.

Event Info Host: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Location: Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A


123 S. Linn


Iowa City, IA

                    Contact Info Phone:





Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) would provide public funding for state elections, something that has already shown success in Arizona, Maine, Connecticut, and other places.

Come discuss the issues you care about and how the influence of big money creates obstacles to change. With VOICE we can shape a government where people matter more and money matters less.

This meeting is sponsored by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Iowa Citizen Action Network.

Friday, July 25:

The DNR will be holding an informational meeting about water quality rules at 10 am in the Wallace Building 5th floor conference room in Des Moines. For background, see details above about similar event in Clear Lake on July 23.

Tuesday, July 29:



Candidate for Polk County Sheriff

Next Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Open House – 4:30 P.M. to 6:30 P.M.

At the home of Jim & Roxanne Conlin

2900 Southern Hills Circle

Des Moines, IA

(Just head west on Park Ave. about a mile and a half west of Fleur Drive; turn north off of Park Ave. on Southern Hills Drive; drive north until you reach Southern Hills Circle.)

Contributions Appreciated:  Checks may be made payable to:

McCarthy for Sheriff

Or mail contribution to:

Bill McCarthy for Sheriff,

5201 SE 32nd St., Des Moines, IA 50320

* For questions or to RSVP, contact Linda at 205-4351

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Events coming up this weekend

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out any important event.

Democratic candidates, please e-mail me about your upcoming public events and/or fundraisers, so that I can include them in these posts.

Thursday, July 17:

Democracy for America is holding another one of its “Night School” sessions, this time featuring Professor George Lakoff:

Ever wonder why simply stating our positions on the hot button issues isn’t enough to win votes? Or why Democrats who try and adopt conservative stances on issues usually lose their elections even in conservative districts?

Professor George Lakoff has the answers and will show us how to frame the solutions during the next Night School. Thursday, Professor Lakoff will be our special guest trainer; highlighting specific thinking points from his new book “The Political Mind” and teaching the framing progressives need to know to win. Join us “Live from Netroots Nation” at a special time: 5:30pm Eastern.

The Political Mind with George Lakoff

Thursday 5:30pm Eastern Time


More information from Democracy for America is after the jump.

Rob Hubler will be at the Decatur County fair in Leon at 6:30 pm.

Friday, July 18:

Rob Hubler will be at the Carroll County fair in Carroll at 1:00 pm.

Hubler will be at the Crawford County fair in Denison at 3:15.

Hubler will be at the Mills County fair in Malvern at 6:15.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is holding its Statewide Convention on Friday and Saturday at the Hotel Fort Des Moines (10th and Walnut). The keynote speaker on Friday night will be John Nichols, writer for The Nation magazine. Tickets for the Nichols event can be purchased for $15 in advance or for $20 at the door. To purchase tickets, call Iowa CCI at 515-255-0800 or visit www.iowacci.org.

For more background on Nichols, read this diary posted by Whitney. To register to attend ICCI’s convention, click here.

Saturday, July 19:

ICCI’s convention continues all day at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. A particularly interesting workshop on how to win the battle over clean elections reform will be led by State Representative Pam Jochum.

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association is holding a Residential Solar Photovoltaic Workshop at the Des Moines Botanical Center from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. It costs $100 for I-Renew members and $150 for non-members, with an optional $11 lunch. Click here for more information, or read the whole e-mail announcement from I-Renew after the jump.

Rob Hubler will be at the Buena Vista County fair in Storm Lake at 1 pm.

Hubler will be at the O’Brien County fair in Primghar at 3 pm.

Polk County supervisor Tom Hockensmith is holding the 6th Annual Hockensmith Family Picnic from noon to 3 pm at Doanes Park, Shelter #1, 451 S. Pleasant Hill Blvd. $10 per person – or – $25 per family. Directions from E. University / Hwy 163: Go South on Hickory Blvd., West on Maple Dr., then South on S. Pleasant Hill Blvd.

Sunday, July 20:

Rob Hubler will be in the Monona County fair parade in Onawa at 10 am.

Hubler will be at the Pottawattamie County fair in Avoca at 3:15 pm.

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Clean elections supporters: Save the date of July 19

If you support the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) act, which would create a voluntary public-financing system similar to that used for state elections in Maine and Arizona, you’ll want to come to Des Moines for this event:

State Representative Pam Jochum, who has proposed publicly financed elections yearly since 2000, will host a workshop at CCI’s annual convention to discuss how Iowans can win VOICE. The workshop will be held July 19 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines – additional convention information can be found at www.iowacci.org. […]

At the convention, Jochum will speak about how Iowans can clear the hurdles to win VOICE.

Click the link to read the whole press release from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement at Blog for Iowa.

Speaking of ICCI, John Nichols, a writer for The Nation, will deliver the keynote address for that group’s convention in Des Moines on July 18. More details on that event are after the jump.

Jochum gave up her seat in the Iowa House this year to run in Senate district 14. That’s a Democratic-leaning district, so we are likely to have a strong VOICE advocate in the upper chamber for the 2009 legislative session.

If you’re not familiar with the VOICE act, the Iowa Voters blog posted this detailed bill summary last year.

Public Campaign’s website is still the best source for information about clean elections reform nationwide.

Reducing the influence of money in politics is the key to solving many other problems. The Maine and Arizona-style systems are court-proof, because they are voluntary for candidates. But over time, more office-holders in those states have tended to run with the “clean money” option.

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Harkin is co-sponsoring fair elections bill--will Boswell?

The non-profit Public Campaign advocates for public financing of campaigns, which “makes elections about voters and not lobbyists and campaign donors.”  

The group has declared April 14-18 “Fair Elections Action Week”:

The Fair Elections Now Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and its companion legislation in the House represent our best chance to date to see the Clean Elections public financing programs that have been so successful at the state level be enacted for Congress. In the midst of an election season when campaign fundraising and campaign spending are at an all time high, we need to rally behind legislation that will drastically reduce the influence of special interest money on elections, and put the focus of candidates for federal office back on the voters.

I’m proud to say that Senator Tom Harkin is among the co-sponsors of the Durbin bill. As we’ve reported at Bleeding Heartland, Harkin is no slouch when it comes to fundraising under the current system; he started this year with more than $3 million in the bank. Yet Harkin has the good sense to support clean elections reform.

The excessive influence of moneyed interests in Washington is obvious to anyone who follows Congress closely. If we can take a step toward reducing the role money plays in our elections, we may be able to make progress on a lot of other issues.

Unfortunately, Congressman Leonard Boswell is not on board with the House bill on public financing, as this letter to the editor by a former Common Cause intern mentions. It would be great if he had a change of heart on this issue, but that seems unlikely.

Can any Boswell supporter explain to me why he hasn’t stepped up to co-sponsor this bill?

By the way, as you probably know already, Ed Fallon would support this election reform at the federal level. He has strongly advocated for the Voter-Owned Iowa Clean Elections Act, which would create a voluntary public financing system similar to those which enjoy massive bipartisan support in Maine and Arizona.

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Why are King and Latham against verifiable elections?

I learned from the Iowa Voters blog that Steve King (IA-05) and Tom Latham (IA-04) were among the 85 percent of Republicans in the U.S. House who voted against New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt’s bill encouraging verifiable elections on Tuesday.

For details on the bill, click here. Here’s the gist:

H.R. 5036, as reported to the floor by the committee, would authorize funding to reimburse states with paperless jurisdictions that convert to paper-based voting systems in 2008 or provide emergency paper ballots that would be counted as regular ballots in the event of machine failure. The reimbursements would cover the cost of equipment conversion (from paperless touch screen machines to paper-based systems, such as optical scanners or computers with printers) and the cost of developing procedures for conducting hand-counted audits using independent, random selection of at least 2 percent of the precincts for audits under public observation.

Holt noted that two weeks ago, the House Administration Committee unanimously approved this bill. However, after the White House came out against the bill, 176 out of 203 Republicans fell in line.

At his blog, IowaVoter pointed out that the bill King and Latham voted against would have “re-imbursed Iowa for the expense of replacing our touchscreens.” (Two weeks ago Governor Chet Culver signed a law requiring all Iowa counties to use optical scanners and paper ballots.)

But no, King and Latham would rather rubber-stamp the Bush administration’s opposition to a bill that was voted unanimously out of committee.  

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Culver signs law banning touchscreen voting machines

Governor Chet Culver on Tuesday signed into law Senate File 2347, which requires all Iowa counties to use optical scan voting machines and paper ballots.

The state will spend an estimated $4.6 million to replace touchscreen voting machines in 19 counties that have been using them.

It’s a relief that all 99 counties will be using similar voting equipment, which is less vulnerable to tampering than touchscreen machines and allows for hand and machine recounts in the event of a close election.

The Des Moines Register quoted Sean Flaherty of Iowans for Voting Integrity as saying voters will also save time in the counties that are replacing the paperless machines. Voting by touchscreen takes longer and leads to bigger backlogs at polling stations.

A lot of credit goes to Secretary of State Mike Mauro, who showed leadership on this issue despite the governor’s early objections to the cost of the plan and complaints by some officials in the counties that had purchased touchscreen machines.

Iowa moving toward paper ballots in all counties

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that

The Senate voted 47-1 on Senate File 2347, which calls for the state to pay for new machines so that every county has machines with paper ballots that could be recounted after an election.

The plan calls for the state to buy one machine for each precinct that needs an equipment update.

This bill, which would cost the state about $8.6 million, is adapted from Secretary of State Mike Mauro’s sensible plan to make sure that every Iowan casts a vote on a paper ballot.

The bad news is that county officials are objecting to the bill’s provision that

County taxpayers would pick up the tab for shipping, software, testing of the machines, and all licensing fees. And some counties would need to buy special tables for certain machines.

Dubuque County, for example, would have to spend almost $100,000 of its own money up front, plus an extra $10,000 or so per year for storage, license fees and additional staff that would be needed to deliver the equipment in time for elections, said Tom O’Neill, Dubuque County’s deputy commissioner of elections.

Dubuque County bought 43 touch-screen machines two years ago to meet federal requirements for helping voters with disabilities. It wasn’t easy or cheap to train more than 300 pollworkers, many of whom are in their 60s and 70s, O’Neill said.

I have limited sympathy for these county officials. They never should have spent money on machines that lacked paper ballots. Touchscreen machines are at the very least an accident waiting to happen–who knows when a close race will need to be recounted? And in the worst-case scenario, touchscreen machines could be tampered with, possibly leading to the wrong candidate being declared the winner of an election.

Meanwhile, the Register noted that

Lawmakers today adopted an amendment that stemmed from Gov. Chet Culver’s demand for more oversight of Secretary of State Michael Mauro’s purchase of the equipment.

The amendment would require Mauro’s office to work in consultation with the Department of Administrative Services on the purchase. The department director, Mollie Anderson, reports directly to Culver. Mauro, as an elected official, doesn’t.

I trust Mike Mauro to handle this matter, but at the same time, I have no problem with this amendment, if that’s what was necessary to get Governor Culver on board with Mauro’s plan for replacing voting machines.

With any luck, the presidential race is not going to be as close this year as in 2000 and 2004, but we are likely to have some state legislative races decided by very small margins. I feel more confident knowing that in the event of a close race, there will be paper ballots to recount.

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Culver backs Mauro's plan to replace paperless voting machines

Governor Chet Culver has agreed to back Secretary of State Mike Mauro’s plan “to use state money to help counties switch to one uniform system with paper ballots,” the Des Moines Register reported on Saturday:

Culver said he has put together a “working group” that includes Mauro, lawmakers and Culver’s staff. They will try to figure out how to get counties equipped with optical scan machines that count paper ballots – as he has long advocated for, he said.

Good for him. As I’ve written before, spending money on equipment that would print receipts for touchscreen voting machines would just throw good money after bad. Better to ensure that every Iowan votes with a paper ballot, which can be recounted if necessary.

Also on Friday, Culver endorsed incumbent Leonard Boswell in the Democratic primary for Iowa’s third Congressional district:

He called Boswell a “dear friend” whose military background is valuable on national security issues, although he said he respects Fallon and supports the idea of competitive political races.

Meanwhile, the Register tries to make news by noting that Culver has refused to rule out running for president someday.

Come on, reporters. He’s barely a year into his first term, and with any luck we’re about to elect a Democrat who will serve as president until 2012 or 2016. Let Culver get a term or two under his belt before you start asking him whether he’ll run for president.

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Legislature should back Mauro, not Culver, on voting machines

The Sunday edition of the Des Moines Register has a front-page story on the disagreement between Governor Chet Culver and Secretary of State Mike Mauro over Iowa’s voting machines. Key passage:

Meanwhile, each man is trying to drum up support for his own proposal for ensuring a paper trail for every voting machine in Iowa.

Mauro wants to spend $9.7 million to give every voter an actual paper ballot that could be recounted later.

Culver wants to spend only $2 million to equip touch-screen voting machines, which have electronic ballots, with a special printer that shows voters their choices on a continuous roll of paper.

In Mauro’s cheering section are watchdog groups, and some key lawmakers and county election officials of both political stripes.

Sean Flaherty of Iowans for Voting Integrity, a Fairfield-based citizens group, gave Culver’s plan a thumbs down.

“Paper printouts are better than no paper trail, but spending money on paper-trail printers is chasing good money after bad,” said Flaherty, of North Liberty. “No one respects these printers, and it is likely that Congress will ban them in the near future.”

Culver blasted the more expensive plan last week.

“Money does not grow on trees around here,” he said in an interview. “The idea that we could come up with $9 million right now is a pipe dream. It’s irresponsible to suggest otherwise.”

Mauro has said he would pay for his plan for optical scan machines and ballot-marking devices with $3.7 million already earmarked, and by paying the voting equipment vendor the remaining $6 million on installment over the next three years.

As I’ve written before, I agree with Mauro on this issue. I lack confidence in the technology that would attach paper receipts to touchscreen machines, and such a fix would probably be throwing good money after bad, since the federal government may outlaw touchscreen machines in the next few years.

You can find more background on the issue, as well as persuasive arguments in favor of paper ballots, at the Iowa Voters site, which is dedicated to “open and transparent elections.”

Speaking of federal legislation, if you check out Blog for Iowa, Susannah Goodman of Common Cause and Jerry Depew of Iowa Voters have information on an important bill proposed by Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey (H.R. 5036, the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008).

While no voting system is error-free, the recent recount of the New Hampshire primary results showed that the error rate for optical-scanner precincts was very low.

At some point we need to bite the bullet and spend the money necessary to get optical scanners in all the Iowa counties. In the event of another very close election, we need to have real paper ballots to recount.

I would also support hand recounts of a few precincts (randomly chosen) afer every state election. Apparently a bill to that effect is under consideration in the New Hampshire legislature. I don’t know if anyone has proposed a similar bill in Iowa before.

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Adopt Mike Mauro's plan for paper ballots

Secretary of State Mike Mauro wants every precinct in Iowa to have an optical scanner that reads paper ballots. Legislators should listen to him, even though the plan would cost $9.7 million, according to the Des Moines Register.

A new state law says there has to be a paper trail, leading some to call for retrofitting touchscreen machines with windows that would let voters view a “receipt” to confirm their votes. This “verified paper audit trail” would cost about $2 million to put in place, but I’m with Representative Pam Jochum of Dubuque, who says it would be a “total waste of money” to retrofit touchscreen voting machines.


Mauro pointed out Wednesday that any such system could be obsolete in two years because of pending federal legislation that could change requirements for voting machines.

Iowa needs to find a way to fund Mauro’s proposal, so that we have secure voting procedures and paper ballots that can be recounted if necessary.

Although no voting system is perfect, the recent recount in New Hampshire showed lower error rates in precincts using optical scanners than in precincts that counted ballots by hand on election night.

Touchscreen voting is a disaster in the making, not only because of the potential for tampering but also because it leaves nothing to be recounted in case of a disputed election.

By the way, I had previously reported that New Hampshire would recount all the ballots from the recent primary, but in fact Dennis Kucinich only put in $27,000, enough to recount about 40 percent of the ballots. The recount has now ended, having revealed no significant changes in vote totals for the candidates. Click the link for more details.

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Rally Wednesday at the capitol for voter owned elections

I support Public Campaign, which is pushing for “clean elections” (voluntary public-financing) nationwide.

Today I got this e-mail from the Public Campaign Action Fund:

Just a reminder that Voter Owned Iowa is holding a rally tomorrow, Wednesday, at 12 p.m. at the Capitol in support of the Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) Act that would bring full public financing to Iowa’s legislative races.  After the rally, we’ll be lobbying individual members of the General Assembly on the VOICE Act.

Sign up here to join us at the rally!

The VOICE Act (introduced in both legislative chambers as House File 805 and Senate File 553) would allow candidates in Iowa to seek office without having to appeal to wealthy special interests for campaign contributions.  Once elected, the legislators who ran using the VOICE system would be accountable only to the voters who elected them, not well-heeled contributors who would have otherwise funded their campaigns.

We need to show our support for VOICE at the capitol  – RSVP here to attend the rally and lobby afterwards!

I hope you’ll be able to join me, and others from Voter Owned Iowa tomorrow.  We have a good chance to make the VOICE Act law this year, with just a few days left in the legislative session, your support can make all the difference in passing this bill.

Look forward to seeing you there,

Jeannette Galanis

National Field Director

If you can make it to downtown Des Moines over the lunch hour, they could use your support!

If you can’t attend the rally but would like to contribute financially to Public Campaign’s effort to pass Voter Owned Elections in Iowa, you can click here.

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