Guest Columnist

Vilsack: Iowa can achieve the nation's top turnout rate

Former USDA secretary Tom Vilsack is interviewed by James Lynch at The Gazette in Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 17, 2019.
Former USDA secretary Tom Vilsack is interviewed by James Lynch at The Gazette in Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

This month, Iowans began casting their ballots in person at polling places around the state. From Sioux City to Davenport to Cedar Rapids, the Hawkeye State has already shown it is coming out strong and is ready to vote. This is a trend we’re seeing across the country; to date, more than 17 million Americans have cast their ballots, either by mail or in person. This enthusiasm highlights that we aren’t falling for voter suppression tactics — we believe that our voting process is secure and we have the power to pick our elected officials.

With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, we need Iowans to keep up this momentum and continue to vote in droves. Our state has historically had high voter turnout. This election, there’s no reason we can’t have the highest voter participation rates in the country.

Over and over again, we have witnessed voter suppression efforts aiming to deter Americans from casting their vote. And these same efforts are underway right now. From fears of ballot harvesting in Ohio to voters reporting a 10-hour wait to drop off their ballots in Georgia to the removal of all but one ballot drop-box for a district of 4.7 million people in Texas, efforts to limit the vote are real and represent an important threat to the future of our democracy.

Voting in person is not the only concern: Republicans continue to call vote-by-mail corrupt even though our armed forces have been doing it securely since the Civil War. Yet Iowans — and Americans across this country — know the value of our vote. We know that casting our ballot is more important than ever, and we’re not falling for the intimidation tactics that are meant to deny our rights.

Moreover, we know that after the votes are cast, they are being counted with the utmost care by our fellow Iowans. Absentee ballots will begin to be counted on November 2, the day before Election Day, by a dedicated, bipartisan board in each county. And all results will be verified by the Secretary of State’s office. Iowans should rest assured their neighbors are doing everything in their power to keep the election safe and secure.

This November, there is a real possibility that President Donald Trump calls the election prematurely and declares himself the winner. We cannot let this happen. The election won’t be over until every vote in every state is counted, and our election officials’ role is to ensure that happens.

Allowing every American to exercise their right to vote is deeply ingrained in who we are — and has continued even in the most desperate of times. We won’t allow this to change come November.

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This fall, we’ll begin writing a new chapter of the American story, and voters in Iowa can lead the charge. I implore you to be part of this and make your plan to vote if you haven’t already. Showing up to the polls, volunteering as a poll worker and organizing your community are key ways to show our collective strength — and send a signal that despite attempts to stop us, we will count each and every vote.

Together, let’s set a record for voter turnout in Iowa.

Tom Vilsack is a former U.S. secretary of agriculture and served as Iowa’s governor from 1999 to 2007.

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