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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What's going on at the Iowa Department of Revenue?

Governor Kim Reynolds appointed former Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen as director of the Iowa Department of Revenue on February 22, only six weeks after she had named Adam Humes to lead the agency. A late Friday afternoon news release did not explain the reason for the change, saying only that Humes “has decided to pursue other opportunities.”* Paulsen will start work this coming Monday. Leadership transitions at state agencies typically are weeks or months in the making.

Humes’ predecessor, Courtney Kay-Decker, also left under odd circumstances. Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, she sounded excited to continue to lead the department after the 2018 election. But in early December, Kay-Decker announced her resignation, effective at the start of the new year.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton's and Pam Dearden Conner's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Boulton won this race by just under 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative primary results tonight will be the race to represent the open Iowa Senate district 16, covering the east side of Des Moines and Pleasant Hill in Polk County. No Republican has filed to run in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. The two contenders seeking to replace retiring Senator Dick Dearden are his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, and Nate Boulton. Bleeding Heartland posted background on both candidates here. Each has substantial support from influential local Democrats.

I love three things about this primary:

1) It is happening. Dearden announced his plans to retire six months before the filing deadline, giving all local residents plenty of time to enter the Senate race. He could have pretended to be seeking another term, then pulled his nominating papers on the last day, leaving time for only his daughter to file. Too many Iowa lawmakers, including three House Democrats this year, have engineered their retirements so that only favored insiders had a chance to consider running for office.

2) Both sides are working hard. Although some Iowa Democrats have a bizarre fear of competitive primaries, I see no downside to two candidates and a small army of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls, trying to identify supporters and get them to vote. As of May 24, more than 1,200 voters in Senate district 16 had requested absentee ballots. Both campaigns were out in force this past weekend, enjoying perfect weather for canvassing. Boulton has raised and spent more money, as you can see from his and Conner’s latest disclosure reports, but both sides have done substantial district-wide voter outreach.

3) As far as I can tell, the candidates have stayed positive. Months ago, I was worried the Senate district 16 primary might turn nasty like the 2013 Des Moines City Council race between Chris Diebel and Skip Moore, which lit up social media and strained friendships.

May the best Democrat win. I’ve posted below some examples of campaign literature and direct mail supporting each candidate. You can find more information on the websites for Conner and Boulton.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton raised more money in four months than Dick Dearden did in seven years

When Nate Boulton announced his Iowa Senate campaign in September, he subtly indicated he would be a different kind of legislator than State Senator Dick Dearden, the longtime Democratic incumbent who is retiring this year. Boulton promised to “be an active and engaged representative of district interests” and to “bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate.”

Just a few months into his primary race against Pam Dearden Conner, the retiring senator’s daughter, Boulton sent a strong signal that he will be a more “active and engaged” candidate as well. Campaign finance disclosure forms show that Boulton raised $75,383 during the last four months of the year, a phenomenal total for a non-incumbent, first-time state legislative candidate in Iowa. Not only did Boulton out-raise his primary rival, he raised more than Dearden (a 22-year incumbent) has brought in cumulatively since 2008.

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