Iowa absentee ballot law improved, new voter suppression plans blocked

Iowa lawmakers adjourned for the year on April 27. Bleeding Heartland continues to catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work. Previous reporting related to the 2019 legislative session can be found here.

Republicans have enacted new voting restrictions in some two dozen states this decade. Iowa became part of that trend in 2017 with a law requiring voter ID, shortening the early voting period, and imposing new absentee ballot rules that are on hold pending litigation.

The march toward voter suppression appeared set to continue, with Governor Kim Reynolds winning a four-year term and the GOP retaining control over the Iowa House and Senate last November. Senate State Government Committee chair Roby Smith introduced a horror show election bill days before the legislature’s first “funnel” deadline in March. His Republican colleagues in the upper chamber later approved a bill with most of Smith’s bad-faith proposals.

But in a plot twist, House Republicans agreed to remove all the provisions that would make it harder to vote when House File 692 came back to the lower chamber. The final version, which Reynolds signed on May 16, contained largely technical code revisions and big improvements to the process for tracking and counting absentee ballots.

Follow me after the jump for a short history of a voter suppression tragedy averted.

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IA-Gov: First speeches by the Hubbell-Hart ticket (audio, transcripts)

“Whether it’s her own story or distorting facts about my story, one thing is clear: Governor Reynolds is running a campaign about yesterday,” Fred Hubbell told Iowa Democratic Party state convention delegates on June 16. “We’re running a campaign about tomorrow. We are running to get Iowa growing the right way.”

Hubbell’s first speech to a large crowd since his decisive victory in the high-turnout June 5 primary served several purposes:

• Preview the main themes of his general election campaign;

• Reassure Democratic activists (many of whom had been strongly committed to other candidates) that he shares their values and goals;

• Address and reframe early attacks from Governor Kim Reynolds; and

• Introduce his running mate State Senator Rita Hart, who’s not well-known outside Clinton and Scott counties.

For those who weren’t able to attend the convention, I enclose below audio and full transcripts of the speeches by Hubbell and Hart.

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Rita DeJong's strong performance shows Iowa legislature in play

Josh Hughes is a Drake University undergraduate and vice president of the I-35 school board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Republican Jacob Bossman bested Democrat Rita DeJong by 55.6 percent to 44.3 percent in a January 16 special election that, despite the sub-zero temperatures on election day, got very hot in the final stretch. Sensing vulnerability in this ancestrally Republican seat, the Iowa GOP spent more than $117,000 on tv advertising and paid mail to juice Republican turnout.

The GOP’s investment paid off. But even in this loss, Iowa Democrats have many reasons to feel hopeful, not only because of DeJong’s massive over performance compared to other Democrats, but also because the fundamentals of the district suggest something much larger going on.

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Treasurer submits backup plan to ensure Iowa can pay its bills

Warning that “Iowa must use all available tools to prepare for strained general fund cash flows” in the current fiscal year, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald formally asked Governor Kim Reynolds yesterday to authorize short-term borrowing this fall. Reynolds has previously said she is confident the state will be able to pay its bills without such action.

The country’s longest-serving state treasurer counters that “prudent” management of state finances justifies cash-flow borrowing to ensure that Iowa can meet its obligations, including school aid payments, in early 2018.

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Is Kim Reynolds on track to borrow more money than Chet Culver?

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett fleshed out his case against Governor Kim Reynolds as a manager of state finances this week, saying she is behaving like former Democratic Governor Chet Culver. During the 2010 campaign, then-candidates Terry Branstad and Reynolds derided Culver as “Big Debt Chet.” Now, Corbett asserts, “instead of learning from Governor Culver, she’s mirroring from Governor Culver.”

As the leading GOP rival to Reynolds, Corbett will make fiscal policy a central issue in his gubernatorial campaign. But is Reynolds really on track to borrow more money for the state than Iowa’s last Democratic governor did?

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