Guest Columnist

Scared for their jobs, Iowa Republicans are gaming the democratic process

This photo shows a view of the Iowa Capitol Building, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neib
This photo shows a view of the Iowa Capitol Building, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Why are Republicans in the Iowa Statehouse so afraid of democracy?

Perhaps they are not all afraid, but State Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, certainly is, and based on this week’s vote in the Iowa Senate, it would sure seem that the rest of the GOP crew sitting in the Legislature are scared as well.

That can be the only possible explanation for their recent efforts to push through a last-minute amendment on a benign bill regarding county seals on ballots that passed the Iowa House 97-0. Sen. Smith and his fellow republicans pushed through the amendment under the guise of supposedly supporting “safe, secure and reliable elections.”

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Make no mistake, the only things these scaredy cats are trying to keep safe and secure are their political careers by attempting to suppress a large segment of Iowa voters and striving to prevent them from having multiple choices on the ballot.

The amendment, that was passed the Iowa Senate along party lines this week, would require a written request from voters before the secretary of state would be able to mail out absentee ballots to Iowa voters. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the record turnout Iowa saw during the primary elections on June 2. Turnout was high, largely due to the number of absentee ballots that were received in an election praised by Secretary of State Paul Pate (a Republican, mind you) as a huge success and an example of how “counties, state agencies and the federal government working together to ensure Iowans could vote safely.”

Let me say that quote again, just in case Sen. Smith and company missed it: “This election was a terrific example of counties, state agencies and the federal government working together to ensure Iowans could vote safely.”

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So we had a massively successful, safe and reliable election, and Republicans want us to believe that they are doing this for the betterment of Iowa voters.

But, wait! There’s more!

In an obvious move to keep third-party and independent candidates off the ballots, Smith tacked on a massive increase in the number of signatures that are required to obtain ballot access in Iowa. The amendment would increase the number of signatures required to gain ballot access for president, governor and U.S. Senate by 266 percent. The impact is even more devastating for prospective candidates who want to run for U.S. House, whose signature requirements would be raised from 375 to 2,000, an increase of more than 500 percent!

This is clearly an effort to alienate the 33 percent of Iowa voters who are so sick and tired of the partisan games played that they choose to register as either independent or third party when they fill out their voter registration cards. For a party that likes to espouse the virtues of freedom, Republicans sure love working to silence Iowans, huh?

I don’t often take to calling out other parties. As somebody that was a Republican for nearly 20 years before becoming a Libertarian, and whose family is made up almost entirely of Republicans, I don’t make these claims lightly. It is, however, glaringly obvious that this is not the same GOP that my great grandmother, who greatly influenced my political path, proudly represented her entire life. This is a party that can clearly see the writing on the wall, and are choosing to play political games to save their party and careers that are on life support.

They are waging a battle against freedom and democracy, plain and simple, and they deserve to be called out for doing so.

Mike Conner is Libertarian Party of Iowa chairman.

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