Guest Columnist

'For the People Act' deserves debate

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks next to Vice President Mike Pence (2ndL) while meeting with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks next to Vice President Mike Pence (2ndL) while meeting with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The For the People Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives (HR1) and was introduced in the Senate in March. The League of Women Voters of Iowa strongly believes this act is needed to protect voting rights in Iowa. The For the People Act will improve and modernize our elections and put power back into the hands of the American people.

The act is a bold, transformative set of reforms that will strengthen our democracy. It will restore voting rights to felons, limit gerrymandering, and help with campaign finance reform.

In Iowa, 52,000 citizens are unable to participate in elections because of felony convictions. Iowa and Kentucky are presently the only two states with such restrictions since Florida’s citizens voted to restore voting rights for felons. Once ex-felons have served their sentences, there is no good reason why that right should not be restored. Indeed, restoration of voting rights is credited with reducing recidivism and promoting public safety.

In many states gerrymandering is used to create districts with an unfair advantage for one political party. The state of Iowa’s method of redistricting, in which the lines are drawn by the Legislative Services Agency and approved by the Legislature, is considered a model for how to create congressional and state legislative districts. The For the People Act would make sure that such a fair process is used in all states.

Campaign finance reform is a concern for Iowans as well as all political parties. Not only would the For the People Act introduce voluntary public financing for all campaigns, matching small donations at a 6:1 ratio, it would set stricter limits on foreign lobbying and require “dark money” organizations to disclose donations. It would also restructure the Federal Election Commission, to reduce partisan gridlock.

The power to advance this legislation lies in the hands of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. Grassley has made no secret of the fact that he does not support portions of the bill, but that should not prevent him from bringing it before his committee for a full discussion of the problems and concerns it addresses.

In the name of good governance, we urge every Iowan to contact Grassley and demand he provide a hearing of the For the People Act.

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• Mary Rae Bragg is president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa, serves on the board of 50-50 in 2020 and is a retired political reporter from Dubuque.

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