Staff Editorial

Constitutional amendment setbacks were avoidable

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate speaks during a campaign rally at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville on Sunday, November 4, 2018. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate speaks during a campaign rally at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville on Sunday, November 4, 2018. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)

Two proposed constitutional amendments already approved once by the Iowa Legislature face a major setback due to an avoidable mishap at the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

Secretary of State Paul Pate and his staff failed to file public notice about the amendments, as required by the Iowa Constitution. The process requires amendments to earn support from two different general assemblies before they’re sent to a statewide voter referendum for final approval.

One was a Republican amendment to affirm federal 2nd Amendment rights and subject gun restrictions to strict judicial scrutiny. The other was a bipartisan amendment to clarify the line of succession for situations if the governor leaves or is removed from office.

Now, both must start the process over. The earliest they could go to voters is 2022.

This is all the more frustrating because the same thing has happened before, just 14 years ago under former Secretary of State Chet Culver. This time around, the situation apparently went unnoticed until last week, when gun rights advocates decried the oversight in an email to supporters.

At the very least, Pate needs to closely examine his procedures for meeting public notice requirements. A mistake like this cannot be allowed to repeat itself yet again.

Iowa law requires the secretary of state to publish the proposed amendments in Iowa newspapers three months before the election of a new Legislature. It’s a reasonable requirement meant to ensure voters are aware of the major proposals their next representatives and senators might push forward. We discourage any attempt to remove or change the law.

Even though this board has not advocated for either of these measures, and we have serious concerns about the gun rights proposal in particular, we do not celebrate this oversight. Iowans deserve assurance that the process put forth in the state constitution works like it’s supposed to.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Nevertheless, this unfortunate situation could be made positive if it helps Iowans understand the amendment process and sparks greater engagement. For those who have strong feelings about either amendment, this provides another chance to advocate.

Citizens’ interest in the amendment process was made even more important by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State address this week. She’s calling for new amendments to restore felons’ voting rights and to enshrine victims’ rights.

Iowans should study those ideas closely. And if they’re approved, advocates should be prepared to hold the secretary of state accountable before the next legislative election.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.