# Mike Mauro

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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Matt Schultz running in IA-03; Paul Pate running for Secretary of State

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz confirmed today that he will run for Congress in the open third district. He announced his decision at a press conference in Council Bluffs, where he served on the city council before winning the 2010 election for secretary of state. Council Bluffs is the second-largest city in IA-03. Schultz for Congress is on the web here and on Facebook here. The candidate’s Twitter handle is VoteMattSchultz. So far the website doesn’t contain detailed issue positions, just five section headings: “Protect against government overreach,” “Enact term limits for elected officials,” “Repeal Obamacare,” “Balance the federal government’s budget,” and “Protect our 2nd Amendment rights.”

I’ve posted background on Schultz after the jump, along with an excerpt from today’s official press release announcing his candidacy. It doesn’t mention what I suspect are the real reasons he is running for Congress instead of for re-election.

Meanwhile, Paul Pate announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state. He was elected to that statewide position in 1994 but left after one term to run for governor. Speaking to the Des Moines Register today, Pate said his experience gives him “a pretty good grasp of the office’s responsibilities,” allowing him to “hit the ground running.” He added that he can win the secretary of state’s race.

Pate said he already has strong name-ID with voters around Iowa, and a proven record of fundraising. The successful GOP candidate will need to raise at least $250,000, he said.

“Candidates need to recognize they won’t be able to run this on a shoestring budget,” he said.

Pate, who said he has “great respect” for Schultz, wants to make some changes to the secretary of state position.

“One key thing is my desire to bring more a nonpartisan approach to the office,” he said. “I think that’s something that Iowans and Americans have been clamoring for with all the gridlock going on in Washington.”

Pate flirted with running for Congress in IA-01 last year before opting out, citing family reasons. I’m curious to see whether he can clear the Republican field. My hunch is that he will be unopposed in the primary. I am seeking comment from State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, who was the 2006 GOP nominee for secretary of state.

Brad Anderson is the likely Democratic nominee for this office, although former Secretary of State Michael Mauro has not ruled out running again in 2014. Mauro is currently Iowa’s labor commissioner.

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Iowa will never face the mess Virginia's in

Anyone else following the Virginia attorney general election saga? With some provisional ballots still to be counted, Democrat Mark Herring leads Republican Mark Obenshain by just 117 votes out of more than 2 million cast last Tuesday. Michael McDonald and Dave Wasserman have been posting frequent updates on the situation. No matter who holds a slight lead when the official canvass concludes, there will certainly be a recount. But as Brad Friedman points out,

Unfortunately, a “recount” in Virginia is much less than it might appear. Most of the state’s votes are cast on 100% unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems, on which it is impossible after an election to know if any vote cast on them actually reflects the intent of any voter. Those votes will not be able to be “recounted” at all. Rather, according to § 24.2-802 (D) of the Code of Virginia [PDF], a “recount” of DRE votes consists of little more than checking the results tapes printed out by the machines at the end of Election Night once again. […]

So there is no way to know if any of the DRE votes, the majority of those cast, are actually accurate, as per any voter.

Very close elections for state legislative seats or local offices are routine in Iowa, and we could easily have a statewide contest decided by a margin as narrow as the Herring/Obenshain race. But at least Iowa would be able to recount the ballots cast, because in 2008, our state legislature approved and Governor Chet Culver signed a law requiring paper ballots to be used in all Iowa counties. Before that law passed, some counties had already invested in touchscreen machines, but Secretary of State Mike Mauro strongly lobbied for paper ballots everywhere in the state. The governor initially favored a plan that would have involved retrofitting rather than replacing touchscreen voting machines. But he relented, and Senate File 2347 eventually passed by 47 votes to 1 in the Iowa Senate and 92 votes to 6 in the Iowa House.

Thanks to the advocates and all the Iowa elected officials who made sure the nightmare unfolding in Virginia would never happen here.

P.S. – We could do more to improve our system of post-election audits.

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AFSCME endorses Pat Murphy in IA-01, Staci Appel in IA-03

The elections arm of Iowa’s largest labor union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, announced five endorsements for the 2014 elections today. I’ve posted the whole statement from the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee after the jump. The biggest news is AFSCME coming out early for former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy in IA-01. Two other Democrats are already campaigning for that open seat, probably to be joined soon by State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic and former State Senator Swati Dandekar.

In IA-03, AFSCME will back former State Senator Staci Appel, who voted for a number of pro-labor bills during her four years in the legislature. Gabriel De La Cerda is also running in the Democratic primary and was an Iowa political coordinator for the United Steel Workers Union during the 2012 general election campaign. No one will be surprised to see AFSCME supporting four-term incumbent Dave Loebsack in IA-02 or Jim Mowrer in IA-04, where no other Democrat is likely to take on Steve King.

AFSCME hasn’t endorsed a Democratic challenger to Governor Terry Branstad yet. The only statewide candidate named in today’s release is Brad Anderson for Iowa secretary of state. He has the backing of most of Iowa’s Democratic establishment and may not face any competition in the primary, although former Secretary of State Michael Mauro hasn’t ruled out a comeback attempt.

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Matt Schultz rules out IA-Sen, will seek re-election as secretary of state (updated)

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced on twitter this morning, “I am humbled by all of the encouragement to run for Senate, but I love serving Iowans as Secretary of State… I intend to run for SOS.” Earlier this month, Schultz traveled to Washington to speak with Republicans about the open U.S. Senate seat. I’m not surprised he decided to stay in his current office, where he will not be challenged in the GOP primary. Fundraising has never been Schultz’s strong suit, and in a Senate race he would be competing against at least two Republicans with the potential to raise big money (Matt Whitaker and David Young), plus a possible self-funding candidate in Mark Jacobs.

Schultz’s likely opponent in the secretary of state’s race is Brad Anderson, who has been raising money and building a campaign organization with the support of many heavyweights in the Iowa Democratic establishment. Iowa Labor Commissioner Michael Mauro, who served four years as secretary of state before losing to Schultz in 2010, has not ruled out running in the Democratic primary next year.

UPDATE: Added Brad Anderson’s comment on today’s news after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: Schultz’s full written statement is below as well.

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Brad Anderson has head start in secretary of state's race

When Brad Anderson announced plans to challenge Secretary of State Matt Schultz, many influential Iowa Democrats quickly jumped on board, noting Anderson’s skills and experience as manager of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Iowa.

While Schultz considers running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat next year, Anderson has begun building what may become the largest campaign organization for a statewide office in Iowa other than governor. Last week Anderson announced raising $102,186 for his campaign since he formally launched his candidacy. That may not sound like much money for a statewide race, but Matt Schultz didn’t even raise that much during his entire 2010 candidacy. In January 2013, Schultz’s re-election campaign reported $29,505.62 cash on hand but also $17,071.34 in unpaid bills.

Former Secretary of State Michael Mauro wasn’t a huge fundraiser even as an incumbent seeking re-election in 2010. Mauro has not ruled out running for secretary of state again. Although he did a fantastic job in that office, he would start a Democratic primary campaign against Anderson at an organizational disadvantage.

After the jump I’ve listed Anderson’s 99 “county captains,” along with members of his campaign steering committee. Anderson commented in a press release from April 25, “The 2012 election proved a strong organization is just as important as fundraising, and I am pleased some of the best organizers in the state have joined our team and are ready to help us win this important race.”

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GOP Secretary of State candidate on tv in home region

It’s been a while since my last post on the secretary of state race. Republican Matt Schultz is still running the radio commercial I described here, at least in the Des Moines market. I noticed today that his campaign posted a 30-second television commercial on YouTube on October 21. Schultz is a Council Bluffs City Council member, and the script of this ad sounds like it’s running only in the Omaha/Council Bluffs viewing area.

The video and transcript are below.

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Secretary of State race: Mauro on television, Schultz on radio

The secretary of state campaign isn’t often in the news, but both candidates are now using paid advertising to get their message to the voters. Incumbent Michael Mauro launched his first campaign television commercial this week, a spot focusing on his accomplishments and bipartisan work. Challenger Matt Schultz is running a radio ad that emphasizes his call for photo ID requirements and his Republican affiliation.

Videos, transcripts and comments are after the jump.

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Schultz snubbed as own county auditor backs Mauro

Matt Schultz, the not-very-informed Republican who wants to be Iowa’s chief elections officer, has been on a tear lately. Last week he launched the Stop Mauro website, which publishes new allegations almost daily about Secretary of State Mike Mauro’s supposedly nefarious doings. A common thread in Schultz’s rhetoric, dating from the Republican primary campaign, is that Mauro engages in Chicago-style politics, which have no place in Iowa.

On October 1 Schultz slammed Mauro for filming public-service announcements regarding new voting technology for the visually impaired. Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson covered Schultz’s joint press conference with Republican state treasurer candidate Dave Jamison. Mauro’s office responded as well. There is an obvious public interest in educating Iowans about new voting equipment during election season. Mauro appears in the commercial, but so do a Republican county auditor and the president of the Iowa Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. More details on the production, funding and script of the ad are here.

Schultz’s attention-getting press conference seems to have backfired. On Monday two more Republican county auditors joined the crowd supporting Mauro for re-election. One of the new endorsers was Marilyn Jo Drake of Pottawattamie County. Schultz is well-known there, having served on the Council Bluffs City Council since 2005. But Drake said in a statement, “I’m proud to support Michael Mauro as he seeks a second term as Secretary of State. Michael Mauro has been a strong and effective partner with county auditors across Iowa. I encourage all Iowans to vote for him this fall.”

Elected county officials rarely back statewide candidates from the other party. Schultz doesn’t have the experience to do this job, and his unfounded claims don’t inspire confidence from the county auditors who work with the Secretary of State’s office.

Jamison’s complaints about State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald are no more convincing. Jamison claims “taxpayers” are funding television, radio and newspaper ads featuring Fitzgerald. The ads publicize the College Savings Iowa 529 plan and the “Great Iowa Treasure Hunt,” which encourages Iowans to retrieve unclaimed property from the state. Deputy State Treasurer Karen Austin told me that unclaimed property finances the publicity for the treasure hunt, which state law requires twice a year. Those ads typically appear in May and September. The state’s general fund budget doesn’t pay for the college savings fund commercials either; those are funded by the 529 plan’s assets. Austin told Kay Henderson that many states including Iowa normally promote college savings in September. Jamison accused Fitzgerald of using public funds to promote himself, but

Austin says, “The way that we look at it, is having a state office that does this adds credibility to the program, and that is one thing that gives people comfort in understanding and knowing who is promoting this program, and why should I invest in this program and is that state tax benefit legitimate. So we have always felt that it is very important to make sure that people understand what this program is.”

Similarly, Schultz claimed the commercials on voting technology could have been produced without featuring Mauro. Guess what? Incumbents have some natural advantages in politics–like when Republican office-holders use taxpayer money to fund visits to all 99 Iowa counties every year.

Share any thoughts about the secretary of state or state treasurer races in this thread.

P.S. One point on the Stop Mauro site deserves additional comment. Schultz says Mauro “snubs the law,” citing a 2008 Polk County district court ruling. The court determined that Mauro violated Iowa’s official English law by providing and accepting voter registration forms printed in other languages. Legal scholars Evan Seite and Michael Zuckerman have analyzed this case in detail, and the issues at hand are more complicated than Schultz implies. In fact, the judge who wrote the King v Mauro opinion “suggested that the federal Voting Rights Act […] might require Iowa’s use of non-English voter registration forms” under an exception allowing for “language usage required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” If plaintiffs ever challenge the Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act in federal court, Mauro’s actions may be vindicated. Zuckerman argues that English-only laws are constitutionally vulnerable as applied to voting.  

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Bipartisan group of county auditors backing Mauro for Secretary of State

Secretary of State Michaul Mauro’s campaign announced today that 43 county auditors–31 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one with no party affiliation–have endorsed the Democratic incumbent for re-election. One of the Republicans, Auditor Renee McClellan of Hardin County, said in a statement, “From the first day he took office, Michael Mauro has walked arm-in-arm with county auditors of both political parties and approached his job as Iowa’s commissioner of elections in a non-partisan way, choosing results over politics. I’m proud to support Secretary Mauro and encourage all Iowans to vote for him this fall.”

It’s unusual for partisan county officials to publicly support a statewide candidate from the other party, and Mauro said the endorsements “confirm that my administration has worked effectively with both Democrats and Republicans to make the voting process accessible, safe, and secure.”

No doubt the Republican auditors have noticed that Mauro’s GOP challenger Matt Schultz is ignorant about Iowa election procedures and casually throws around fraud allegations for political gain.

The full list of auditors who support Mauro is after the jump.  

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Schultz Ignorant About Voter Rolls

(Next time Republicans should nominate someone who knows something about this job. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Candidate Matt Schultz went on the radio yesterday to push his “number one issue”—requiring photo identification of all voters. In the process he showed how little he knows about election laws and covered up his discomfort by laughing his way through the ten minute interview.

Schultz portrayed the accusatory electionlawcenter.com as a “non-partisan group.” In fact it is a blog run by a highly partisan attorney. If you try to find the so-called center with a Google search, all you can find is the blog. Schultz should know this by now.

Then he acknowledged that no actual numbers were provided in the letter threatening to sue Iowa for incorrect numbers. He admitted that the charges are unproven. Nevertheless he still features the letter at his website and he wants to use the story to push his agenda. That is indeed the real purpose of the story in the first place–to scare us into erecting barriers to voting.

Schultz joked about dead people voting or about people moving here from Chicago to impersonate dead Iowans at the polls. Since this canard is not grounded in any facts, he offered no facts to back it up. If he ever checked the voting rolls for dead Iowans, he could see that their names are removed as part of routine list maintenance. If he had paid attention last week to Secretary Mauro's rebuttal, Schultz would even know the number of deceased removed in each county.

He further alleged that poll workers are powerless to stop an unfamiliar voter from impersonating the dead. He's never actually read the law: Iowa Code 49.77 (3)

A precinct election official may require of the voter
unknown to the official, identification in the form prescribed by the state commissioner by rule. If identification is established to the satisfaction of the precinct election officials, the person may then be allowed to vote.

In a few minutes on the radio Schultz and his interviewer managed to mention aliens, Arizona, cheating, felons, dead voters, and Chicago politics while pretending to be average citizens bewildered by the ways of election administration. I'd say that makes him a poor candidate for Secretary of State.

Still, you got to hand it to him. When you are not constrained by any facts, a few minutes on statewide radio is all you need to plant doubts in the minds of the public. He was wildly successful at that.

cross-posted at iowavoters.org/

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Republican Iowa poll roundup

It’s been months since we’ve had new public nonpartisan polling of Iowa general election matchups, but three Republican polls have come out in the last ten days. None of them hold good news for Iowa Democrats.

After the jump I summarize results from statewide polls done by Rasmussen Reports and Voter/Consumer Research for The Iowa Republican blog, as well as a Victory Enterprises poll of Iowa’s third Congressional district race.

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Iowa statewide candidate fundraising roundup

The latest round of statewide and state legislative candidate financial reports are available on the website of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. For most candidates, these reports cover money raised and spent between June 2 and July 14. Some of the candidates didn’t file a June 4 disclosure report, and in those cases the latest filing covers the period from May 15 to July 14.

Fundraising numbers for Democratic and Republican candidates for statewide offices are after the jump. In addition to money raised and spent and cash on hand figures, I’ve listed the largest donors for each candidate. I am working on a post about the noteworthy fundraising figures from Iowa House and Senate candidates. John Deeth hit some highlights at the Des Moines Register blog. It’s important to remember that leadership committees for both parties will also spend a lot of money in the battleground legislative districts.

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Secretary of State candidate runs against Obama, "Chicago way"

Republican secretary of state candidate Matt Schultz launched a second television commercial CORRECTION: web ad called “Not the Chicago Way”:

Transcript by me:

I’m Matt Schultz, and I’m running for Iowa secretary of state because I’m worried about the future of my children and the future of your children and grandchildren. It’s time for new leadership in Des Moines, and I’m prepared to stand up and fight for fair and honest elections. Vote early, vote often might be the Chicago way, but it’s not the Iowa way. I’m Matt Schultz, and I approved this message because I’m a conservative Republican fighting to protect the most important right of all: your right to vote.

Like Schultz’s first ad, this commercial raises the specter of voter fraud without any evidence that this has been a problem in Iowa.

When Schultz says, “Vote early, vote often might be the Chicago way,” the visual is a smiling Barack Obama in front of Obama/Biden campaign signs. The hint is sure to play well with Republican primary voters, many of whom may believe the 2008 election was stolen. That’s easier to accept than the reality of a Democratic presidential candidate clobbering the Republican.

Journalists should ask Schultz if he really believes (as this commercial implies) that Barack Obama got where he is because of Chicago-style election fraud. Then they should ask him to prove that “vote early, vote often” has happened even once in Iowa during the past decade or two.

When Schultz says “I’m Matt Schultz, and I approved this message,” the visual shows the words, “TRUST BUT VERIFY.” Schultz used the same Ronald Reagan catch phrase in his first ad, although the Republican icon’s famous words have nothing to do with voter fraud.

Your unintentional comedy of the day comes from Polk County Republican Party chairman Ted Sporer’s blog, commenting on Schultz’s commercial:

The only reason to oppose photo ID for voting is to perpetuate fraud. No other good faith explanation is possible. Although we are lucky to have the rarest of animals, an honest and competent Democrat, serving as Iowa’s SoS, Mike Mauro’s Democrat colleagues are your more garden variety and ethically challenged L/S/Ds.

As I discussed here, photo ID laws threaten to disenfranchise large numbers of voters (the 12 percent of the population lacking a photo ID) in order to solve a virtually non-existent problem (impersonating another voter at a polling place). That’s why advocacy groups who work to protect “the most important right of all, your right to vote” almost universally oppose photo ID laws.

In case you were wondering, L/S/Ds means “Labor/Socialist/Democrats” in “the real Sporer” lingo.

Schultz may pander his way to his party’s nomination, but his rhetoric ignores a fact that even Sporer grudgingly acknowledges: Secretary of State Mike Mauro is honest and highly competent. No one active in politics today has done more to safeguard fair and honest elections in Iowa than Mauro.

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The Secretary of State race is getting interesting

The Republican primary campaign for Iowa secretary of state has lacked the drama and publicity of the governor’s race, but it is turning into a test of strength between a “fresh face” and a veteran of Iowa Republican politics.

The nominee challenging our outstanding Secretary of State Michael Mauro will be either Council Bluffs City Council member Matt Schultz or former State Representative George Eichhorn (“say I-Corn”).

A third Republican qualified for the ballot in this race, but I’m focusing on Eichhorn and Schultz because Chris Sanger is not a serious contender. He has no campaign staff and has raised only about $400, all at bake sales in Stuart, where the candidate and his wife own a bakery. The only newsworthy moment in Sanger’s campaign was his involvement in a meet and greet organized by a guy who thinks killing abortion providers is justifiable homicide. In fairness to Sanger, though, he may have a place in the record books for choosing the longest campaign committee name in Iowa history: Elect Chris Sanger, He Will Vote The Way People Want. Someone should have told him the secretary of state isn’t a legislator who votes on policies.

But I digress. Links and commentary about Schultz and Eichhorn are after the jump.  

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New early voting numbers for the Iowa primary election

Secretary of State Michael Mauro’s office released new numbers today for Iowans voting early in the June 8 primary election.

As of today, 9,209 ballots have been received by county auditor offices across the state. The breakdown by political party is as follows:

Absentee Ballots Received: 9,209

Democrats – 2,140

Republicans – 7,069

Absentee Ballots Sent: 20,269

Democrats – 5,305

Republicans – 14,964

To view these numbers by Congressional district, visit www.iowavotes.gov.

The deadline to request a mailed absentee ballot is June 4 at 5:00 p.m. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before June 7. Voters may still request absentee ballots in-person at their county auditor’s office until close of business on June 7, the day before Primary Day.

On Saturday, June 5, county auditors’ offices will be open for in-person absentee voting. Voters may check with their county auditor for business hours on this day. In addition, voted absentee ballots requested by mail may be hand-delivered to the county auditor’s office until the close of the polls at 9:00 p.m. on Primary Day.

Secretary Mauro encourages those voters who have received absentee ballots to be sure to return completed ballots to their county auditor’s office prior to the deadline.

In order to participate in Iowa’s Primary Election on June 8, eligible voters will need to register either as a Democrat or as a Republican.

For more information on the 2010 Primary Election, visit www.iowavotes.gov.

Note: the number of “absentee ballots received” includes people who have voted early in person, either at a satellite voting location or at their county auditor’s office.

The disparity between ballots requested by Republicans and Democrats is expected, since Democrats have relatively few contested primaries going on (the U.S. Senate race, the fifth Congressional district, a few Iowa House districts and Iowa Senate district 13). Republicans have a three-way primary for governor, two candidates for state treasurer, three candidates for secretary of state, crowded primaries in the first, second and third Congressional districts, and many competitive primaries in Iowa House and Senate districts.

I am surprised there aren’t even more Republican absentee ballots outstanding. From what I’ve heard and read, Terry Branstad’s campaign is making a major push on the absentee ballot front. Supposedly Brad Zaun has been working on turning out third district Republicans to the satellite voting location in Urbandale. I would have expected more than 22,000 Republicans across the state to have voted early or requested an absentee ballot by now. (Approximately 200,000 people voted in the 2002 Iowa Republican primary.) Maybe there will be a surge of voters in the last two weeks before election day, or maybe Republicans just reject early voting on principle.

If you are voting by mail, you can track your absentee ballot through a new feature on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. I prefer to vote early in person; it only took me a few minutes at the Polk County Auditor’s Office.

UPDATE: Melissa Walker posted a good story on this at IowaPolitics.com. She has numbers and return rates for several large counties. According to Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, “many of the early ballots are from the Urbandale area,” which may favor Zaun in the third district primary.

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Iowans can track their absentee ballots as early voting begins

Today marks the beginning of early voting for Iowa’s June 8 primary election, which is exactly 40 days away. Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced a new way for voters to track their ballots at www.iowavotes.gov. From a statement issued by the Secretary of State’s Office:

“The new feature on our website is a terrific tool for Iowa voters and will bring additional transparency to Iowa’s early voting system,” said Secretary Mauro. “By using this feature, voters will know when to expect their ballot and when their completed ballot has safely reached their auditor’s office.”

Absentee voters will be able to view the following information about the status of their ballot:

·         Date the absentee ballot request was processed by the auditor

·         Date the auditor sent the absentee ballot

·         Date the voted absentee ballot was received by the auditor

Last fall, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE Act). That legislation required states to develop an online absentee ballot tracking system for overseas military voters. Secretary Mauro decided to make this feature available to all of Iowa’s early voters – military and nonmilitary – regardless of location.  

In September 2009, Iowa was recognized in a national study as the top state in the nation in making voting accessible for military and overseas voters.

If you have a chance to see Mauro at one of his campaign kickoff events next Tuesday or Wednesday, please thank him for doing an outstanding job. Three Republicans are seeking the nomination for secretary of state: George Eichhorn, Chris Sanger and Matt Schultz. So far Schultz has the most Republican establishment support.  

Most of the competitive primaries in Iowa this year are on the Republican side, but three Democrats are seeking the nomination for U.S. Senate: Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause. Two Democrats are running against Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district: Matt Campbell and Mike Denklau. There’s also a two-way Democratic primary between Richard Clewell and Dave Thede in Iowa Senate district 41 (Scott County) and a four-way Democratic primary between Tod Bowman, Paul Feller, Brian Moore and Ed O’Neill in Iowa Senate district 13 (all of Jackson County and parts of Dubuque and Clinton counties). Five Iowa House Democrats are facing primary challengers: Dave Jacoby (district 30, Iowa City/Coralville), Geri Huser (district 42, east side of Des Moines), Ako Abdul-Samad (district 66, Des Moines), Chuck Isenhart (district 27, Dubuque), and Mary Gaskill (district 93, Ottumwa). Click here to download a pdf file containing the full list of Iowa candidates who qualified for the ballot this year.

Comments about early voting or any Iowa primary races are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Iowans can also vote early at all 99 county auditor offices.

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Obama in SE Iowa and other events coming up during the next two weeks

President Barack Obama is coming back to Iowa this Tuesday with stops scheduled in Fort Madison, Mount Pleasant and Ottumwa. More details on those and other events coming up during the next two weeks can be found after the jump.

The Republican Party of Iowa is organizing a “Stand Up 4 Freedom Rally” on Monday at 5:00 in Ottumwa’s Central Park.

Congratulations to everyone elected to the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee at the district conventions this weekend.

First district: Jean Pardee, Sue Frembgen, Michael Blackwell, Jerry Lynch, Bruce Clark and Jane Lawrence

Second district: Ebony Luensman, Judy Stevens, Melinda Jones, Norm Sterzenbach, Kory May and Al Bohanan

Third distict: Dori Rammelsberg-Dvorak, Mary Campos, Linda Olson, John McCormly, Bill Brauch and Glen Rammelsberg

Fourth district: Susan Seedorff-Keninger, Karen Pratte, Lois Jirgens, Chris Petersen, Tom Harrington and Don Ruby

Fifth district: Monica McCarthy, Penny Rosjford, Marcia Fulton, Tim Bottaro, Dennis Ryan and Dick Sokolowski

Consider this an open thread for discussing anything on your mind this weekend.

A British historian of Russia got caught hiding behind a pseudonym on Amazon in order to post nasty reviews of rival historians’ work while praising his own. One of the historians he trashed responded here. Fortunately, Bleeding Heartland has had few problems with sock-puppetry. Thanks to everyone who respects this community’s rules of engagement.

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Previewing the Iowa secretary of state race

Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro doesn’t make the news often, but he has done very well in his first term. I particularly appreciate his support for requiring paper ballots to be used in all Iowa counties. We had several statehouse races decided by fewer than 100 votes in 2008. Imagine what an uproar we’d have seen if touchscreen voting machines had been used in those races.

Mauro’s campaign website recounts other achievements:

In 2009, Mauro worked closely with the Cerro Gordo County Auditor to make electronic poll books available for use in counties across the state. The electronic poll books will enhance Iowa precinct officials’ ability to process voters effectively and consistently on election day. In addition, the poll books add an extra layer of security to the voting process.

During the 2008 General Election, Iowa saw the fifth highest percentage turnout in the nation i and had the highest rate of young voter participation (18- to 24-year-olds) ii. Secretary Mauro’s office also took the honor of having the top elections website in the country during the 2008 election season according to a leading national election research group iii. In the fall of 2009, Iowa’s election laws and procedures implemented by Secretary Mauro gained national attention when the state ranked first in a study focusing on the ease of voting for members of the military and U.S. citizens living overseas iv. […]

Since Mauro took office, much progress has been made in the business services division. In 2009, the development of a new corporations database is paving the way for online corporate filings beyond the biennial report. Currently, the majority of business filings are done electronically and advancements for additional filings will continue.

The online business center allows business to be conducted 24-hours a day, seven days a week and currently provides access to over three million filed documents and a complete array of forms, applications, and searchable databases for businesses, lending institutions and interested citizens.

I wouldn’t care to run against that record, but some Republicans seem to think they can beat Mauro. GOP establishment figures have been trying to recruit Paul Pate for this race. Pate was elected Iowa secretary of state in the 1994 landslide. He didn’t seek re-election in 1998, running unsuccessfully for governor instead.  

Pate said in December that he was considering a run against Mauro. I thought Republican recruiters had succeeded when the Iowa Republican blog hyped a bogus poll claiming that Pate already leads the incumbent. This week Jason Hancock reported that Pate had filed papers forming a committee for a secretary of state campaign. However, Pate announced on Facebook this morning that he won’t run for secretary of state, citing “family and business demands.” (UPDATE: Apparently Pate’s parents have been having health problems.)

That leaves two declared GOP candidates for this office. George Eichhorn lost his Iowa House seat to McKinley Bailey in 2006 and finished a close second in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2008. He then co-founded an organization opposing Iowa’s public smoking ban, which never got off the ground, and unsuccessfully represented some restaurant and bar owners trying to get that smoking ban thrown out. Eichhorn announced his bid for secretary of state last month. Kathie Obradovich exposed some false and misleading statements in Eichhorn’s opening salvo, and the Iowa Progress blog also looked at his candidacy. Last week Eichhorn released a list of prominent endorsers, including Bill “wingnuttier than Steve King” Salier.

The other Republican candidate in this race is Matt Schultz, who serves on the Council Bluffs City Council. On the issues page of his website, he says he wants to streamline corporate filings, require all voters to show photo ID at polling places, and force all citizens who register to vote on election day to cast provisional ballots. Photo ID laws are generally considered to be voter suppression techniques, and there is no evidence of any problem with voter fraud by impersonating someone at a polling place.

Mauro hasn’t hit the campaign trail yet, but today he released a statement urging Iowans to participate in the Democratic and Republican caucuses this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. (Find your Democratic caucus site here.)

VERY LATE UPDATE, March 9, 2010: Republican Chris Sanger is also running for secretary of state.

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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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The coming battle to amend the Iowa Constitution

There’s nothing opponents of marriage equality can do to stop gay and lesbian couples from getting married in Iowa starting on April 24. Over at Daily Kos, Wee Mama posted information about getting a marriage license in Iowa for those who live elsewhere. If you would like to have a religious ceremony, I recommend contacting The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa for help in finding a sympathetic officiant, most likely to be from a United Church of Christ, United Methodist or Unitarian Universalist congregation. Couples wanting a Jewish wedding should contact Rabbi David Kaufman of Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, if at least one partner is Jewish and the couple is open to raising children as Jews. Rabbi Kaufman has officiated at a same-sex commitment ceremony and published this blog post on Friday demolishing the arguments against legalizing gay marriage in Iowa.

The political battle over marriage equality will go on for a long time after wedding bells start ringing.

After the jump I will bring you up to date on prospects for amending Iowa’s constitution and the latest statewide opinion poll on same-sex marriage.

UPDATE: Scroll to the bottom of this post to read a very strong statement Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal released the evening of April 6.  

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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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More evidence that we need verified voting

Thanks to the Iowa Voters blog, I learned about a transparency project in a California county that uncovered errors made by machines counting paper ballots in the recent election. Click here for more detail on the program and the errors it revealed.

This story provides further evidence that we need verified voting across the country. Mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records would allay fears about malfunctions or tampering with optical scanners.

It’s great that Iowa eliminated touchscreen voting machines last year, but we also need to make sure machines are counting paper ballots accurately. I hope Secretary of State Mike Mauro will work toward this goal.

I recommend that you check out the Verified Voting site to learn more about this issue. Also, it’s not too late to urge Barack Obama to support verified voting at the federal level.

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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Same-day voter registration works well

Secretary of State Mike Mauro announced last Friday that a record 1,546,453 Iowans voted in the general election, including 47,553 who registered to vote on election day. In the days before Iowa allowed same-day voter registration, many people did not vote because by the time they became interested in a political campaign, the deadline to register had passed.

Republicans across the country throw around allegations about voter fraud, but states that have had same-day registration for a long time have not experienced this problem.

Take Minnesota, for instance. About one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Al Franken and Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race. And yet:

[I]t’s worth noting that neither the Al Franken nor Norm Coleman camps has accused election officials of allowing significant numbers of ineligible people to vote. The two campaigns’ close scrutiny of events on Nov. 4 apparently has found nothing notably defective in either the voter registration or sign-in that occurred at the polls.

That’s the way it has been in every election since Minnesota began allowing voters to register at the polls in 1973. Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said that, in his 24 years as a state and county elections administrator, the number of cases of orchestrated group efforts to subvert the law by registering improperly or voting multiple times has been “exactly zero.”

“There has been the occasional individual” who attempted to vote when or where he or she was not eligible. “But we have their driver’s license or their Social Security numbers,” or other means of detecting inaccurate registrations. “We find them and we prosecute them,” he said.

Only nine states allow voters to register on election day. I’d like to see same-day voter registration implemented across the country.

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Events coming up before election day

I’ll be making phone calls for Jerry Sullivan (Democratic candidate in House district 59) this weekend.

What are you doing to close the sale for Democrats on Tuesday?

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if I’ve left out any important events.

Saturday, November 1

The Tallgrass Bioneers conference continues in Grinnell.

For more information, please visit:


(a link to google map and driving directions is at the top of the page)

To pre-register, visit:


Complete schedule:


Leading Iowa Democrats are kicking off a three-day bus tour and caravan around the state:


AMES – 8:45 AM

Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, former Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, 4th District Congressional Candidate Becky Greenwald, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Iowa State University

Memorial  Union – Cardinal Room

2229 Lincoln Way

Ames ,  Iowa

CARROLL – 11:00 AM

Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, 5th District Congressional Candidate Rob Hubler, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Moose Lodge

200 East 5th St

Carroll ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, 5th District Congressional Candidate Rob Hubler, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change office

805 Flindt Drive, Suite 2

Storm Lake ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, 4th District Congressional Candidate Becky Greenwald, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Fort Dodge Public Library

424 Central Avenue

Fort Dodge ,  Iowa

ALGONA – 5:00 PM

Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, 4th District Congressional Candidate Becky Greenwald, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Berte’s Back Nine

216 E. State Street

Algona ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, 4th District Congressional Candidate Becky Greenwald, Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Chicago Dawg Restaurant

687 South Taft Avenue

Mason City ,  Iowa


BOONE – 8:30 AM

Lt. Governor Patty Judge

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

1327 S Marshall St

Boone ,  Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

204 1st Street East

Independence ,  Iowa

TAMA – 10:45 AM

Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, and Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

128 West 3rd Street

Tama ,  Iowa

DENISON – 11:00 AM

Lt. Governor Patty Judge and 5th Congressional District Candidate Rob Hubler

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

128 S. Linden St

Denison ,  Iowa

NEWTON – 12:30 PM

Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, and Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

207 1st Avenue West

Newton ,  Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

421 West Water Street

Decorah, Iowa


Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, and Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

206 East Robinson Street

Knoxville ,  Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

100 2nd Street, Southwest

Waverly, Iowa

LAMONI – 5:00 PM

Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, and Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

128 South Linden Street

Lamoni, Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

216 North Main Street

Charles City ,  Iowa

Sunday, November 2

It’s the last day of the Tallgrass Bioneers conference in Grinnell and the second day of Iowa Democrats’ bus tour and caravan:


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Bruce Braley, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Jameson’s Irish Pub

310 East 4th Street

Waterloo ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Bruce Braley, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Labor Temple

1610  Garfield

Dubuque ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Bruce Braley, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Clinton Community College Auditorium

1000 Lincoln Boulevard

Clinton ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Congressman Bruce Braley, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

United Steelworkers Local 105

880 Devils Glenn Road

Bettendorf ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Dave Loebsack, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Machinist Local  831

222 Prospect Place

Cedar Rapids ,  Iowa



Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, and Secretary of State Michael Mauro

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

602 North Jefferson Way

Indianola, Iowa

SPENCER – 11:45 AM

Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and 5th Congressional District Candidate Rob Hubler

600 Grand Avenue, 1st Floor (formerly Marcos Restaurant)

Spencer ,  Iowa

WAUKEE – 12:45 PM

Governor Tom Vilsack and Christie Vilsack, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, and 4th Congressional District Candidate Becky Greenwald

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

144 East Laurel Street

Waukee, Iowa


Secretary of State Michael Mauro and 4th Congressional District Candidate Becky Greenwald

Obama  Iowa Campaign for Change office

104 North 1st Avenue

Winterset ,  Iowa

LE MARS – 2:00 PM

Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and 5th Congressional District Candidate Rob Hubler

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change office

27 Central Avenue, Northwest

Le Mars, Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and 5th Congressional District Candidate Rob Hubler

Mary Treglia Community House

900 Jennings Street

Sioux City ,  Iowa


Lt. Governor Patty Judge

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

124 West Platt Street

Maquoketa ,  Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and 5th District Congressional Candidate Rob Hubler

McGinn Law Firm

25 Main Place, Suite 500

Council Bluffs ,  Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and 5th District Congressional Candidate Rob Hubler

Iowa Obama Campaign for Change office

209 North Maple Street

Creston ,  Iowa

Monday, November 3

Did you remember to enter the Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest? You can’t win if you don’t play!

It’s the last day for early voting at your county auditor’s office.

It’s the final day of the Iowa Democrats’ bus tour and caravan:

IOWA CITY – 10:00 AM

Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Dave Loebsack, Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan


118 East College Street

Iowa City ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Congressman Dave Loebsack, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Port of  Burlington

400  North Front Street

Burlington ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Dave Loebsack, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan


1305 East Mary Street

Ottumwa ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, 4th Congressional District Candidate Becky Greenwald, Congressman Dave Loebsack, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

UAW Hall

411 Iowa Avenue, West

Marshalltown ,  Iowa


Senator Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, Governor Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Congressman Leonard Boswell, Attorney General Tom Miller, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, and IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

UAW Hall

411 Iowa Avenue, West

Marshalltown ,  Iowa


TIPTON – 11:30 AM

Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change office

500 Cedar Street

Tipton, Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Parks and Recreation Building

312 Iowa Avenue

Muscatine, Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change office

819 Avenue G

Fort Madison, Iowa


Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change office

108 West Palm Road

Fairfield ,  Iowa

If you’re in the Cedar Rapids area and are interested in global warming:


“The global climate is changing. We know that humans are responsible for a large portion of that change, which will have implications for Iowa.”

That is the central theme of a public forum set for Kirkwood Community College Monday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Kirkwood and several other colleges and community groups will host a “Connections” program in Ballantyne Auditorium on the main Kirkwood campus.

The free forum will feature Dr. Jerald Schnoor of The University of Iowa, speaking on “Mitigating and Responding to Climate Change in Iowa.”  Schnoor is the Allen S. Henry Chair and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Tuesday, November 4

It’s not too late to contact your local Democratic field office or county party to volunteer for a shift on election day. There are many jobs to be done–you don’t have to work the phones or knock on doors.

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Come out to see top Iowa Democrats this weekend

Barack Obama’s rally in downtown Des Moines on Friday morning will grab most of the media attention, but there will be many, many rallies around Iowa this weekend.

Beginning on Saturday and continuing through Monday, Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Chet Culver will headline a 16-stop “Count on Us” bus tour, while top state officials and our candidates for Congress will headline a “Count on Us” caravan.

I’ve posted the full schedule after the jump. No matter where you live, you probably wouldn’t have to drive far to get to one of these events. Feel free to post a diary afterward to tell us how it went.  

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Surprise! English-only law is more than symbolic

Back in 2002, Steve King hadn’t yet become an embarrassment on the national stage; he was merely a crusader for intolerance in the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature. Tom Vilsack was a first-term governor nervously eyeing a midterm re-election campaign under the very popular President George W. Bush.

Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

Anyway, King was obsessed with passing a law declaring English the official language of Iowa. Didn’t you know how difficult it had become for Iowans to express themselves without official acknowledgment of English’s status?

Vilsack vetoed one version of the bill, then signed the rewritten bill that came to his desk. Disappointed liberals were assured that Vilsack had made the smart play by taking the issue off the table for the November election. Besides, the new bill contained all kinds of exceptions, so it would be little more than a symbolic measure.

Well, this week a judge in Polk County “ordered Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro to stop using languages other than English in the state’s official voter registration forms”, the Des Moines Register’s William Petroski reported. (If you want to read the ruling, click here.)

In 2006 King, by then a U.S. Representative in Iowa’s fifth district, complained that then-Secretary of State Chet Culver had put voting information in Spanish, Laotian, Bosnian and Vietnamese as well as English on the secretary of state’s website.

Attorney General Tom Miller had determined such action was acceptable because the official English law allowed for “any language usage required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, or the Constitution of the state of Iowa.”

King filed suit last year against Culver and Mike Mauro, who was elected secretary of state in 2006.  District Judge Douglas Staskal concluded that voter registration forms in languages other than English are against the law, and voided the “improper exercise of agency power.”

Miller, like Culver and Mauro a Democrat, may appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court:

“Our view is that although the Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act requires all official forms to be in English, it does not prohibit government officials from providing materials in other languages as well,” Miller said. “We argued that position to the District Court. This principle can be particularly important in the area of voting rights of citizens.”

If this ruling is upheld, it will hamper efforts to register voters whose native language is not English.

I’m with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, which wrote on Saturday that “it’s time for Iowa lawmakers to repeal this embarrassing law.”

They should do so because the law is mean-spirited and sends an anti-immigrant message. They should do so because it makes Iowa seem xenophobic. They should do so because it’s unnecessary when studies show today’s immigrants are learning English as quickly as their predecessors.

And to lawmakers who may have thought the law was toothless because it included exemptions, Judge Staskal’s ruling tells them otherwise. The law applies to “official action” from government, which is broadly defined. It could have a “chilling effect on speech by causing government employees to refrain from non-English communication all together,” he wrote.

There is still time for legislators to repeal the official English law this session.

Don’t let the ghost of Steve King constrain voting rights in the upcoming presidential election.

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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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