Iowa legislature may be more diverse after 2022 election

Iowans may elect more people from under-represented populations to the state legislature in 2022, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of the primary and general election candidate filings indicates.

One barrier will certainly be broken: as the only candidate to file in House district 78, Democrat Sami Scheetz will become the first Arab American to serve in our state legislature.

The lawmakers who convene at the statehouse next January may also include Iowa’s first Jewish legislator in nearly three decades as well as more people of color, more LGBTQ people, and the first Paralympian.

A forthcoming post will discuss prospects for electing more women to the Iowa House and Senate.

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Murguia-Ortiz, Van Cleave running in Iowa Senate district 17

An unusual race is shaping up in a solid blue Iowa Senate district with no incumbent.

Normally, the Democratic nominee in a district covering parts of Des Moines would be a lock to win in November. But community organizer Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz will run in the new Senate district 17 as an independent candidate on a progressive platform.

The Democratic field is nowhere near set; the first candidate likely to make a formal announcement is Grace Van Cleave.

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Lawsuit challenges English-only voting materials in Iowa

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa is seeking a judicial order declaring that the state’s English-only law “does not apply to voting materials, including ballots, registration and voting notices, forms, instructions, and other materials and information relating to the electoral process.”

The state’s largest Latino advocacy organization filed suit in Polk County District Court on October 27, according to the Democracy Docket website founded by Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias. His law firm is representing LULAC in this and other cases related to voting rights.

LULAC previously petitioned Secretary of State Paul Pate to allow county auditors across Iowa to accept official Spanish-language translations of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms. However, Pate’s legal counsel informed the group in late September that the Secretary of State’s office “is still under an injunction” from 2008 “which prevents the dissemination of official voter registration forms for this state in languages other than English.”

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Advocates ask Iowa SOS to allow Spanish-language voting materials

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has petitioned the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to allow elections officials in all 99 counties to accept official Spanish-language translations of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms.

The Secretary of State’s office has not yet replied to the petition and did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about the matter. If it doesn’t issue the requested order within 60 days of the filing date (July 28), Iowa’s largest Latino advocacy group can go to court seeking an exception for voting materials from Iowa’s 2002 “English language reaffirmation” statute, more commonly known as the English-only law.

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Racial disparities already apparent in Iowa's COVID-19 vaccination rates

When the Iowa Department of Public Health created a new advisory council in December to draft recommendations on allocating coronavirus vaccines, the body’s “guiding principles” were supposed “to ensure vaccine availability to specific populations, particularly in groups that are at highest risk for severe outcome from COVID-19 infection.” The council’s framework stated, “These priority recommendations and subsets must also recognize the importance of treating individuals fairly and promoting social equity, by addressing racial and ethnic disparities in COVID mortality […].”

Nevertheless, people of color in Iowa are being vaccinated for COVID-19 at substantially lower rates than white people, analysis by Sara Anne Willette has found. As of February 7, white Iowans had received more than double the doses of vaccine per 1,000 population as Black Iowans, Native Americans, or people of Asian descent, and Iowans not of Latino ethnicity had received more than triple the doses per capita as had Latinos in Iowa, Willete calculated.

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