Staff Editorial

Our state Constitution needs an edit

The Iowa Constitution on display in the Secretary of State’s office at the Capitol on Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa Constitution on display in the Secretary of State’s office at the Capitol on Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Though seemingly hard to fathom back when Iowa’s Constitution was drafted in 1857, voters in 2018 have elected a woman to the office of governor. Editing that document to reflect our 21st century reality is the right thing to do, and should have been done years ago.

We’re talking about pronouns, specifically “he,” “him” and “his.” They’re found throughout constitutional provisions outlining the powers and duties of Iowa’s governor. “He shall transact all executive business with officers of government,” begins Article IV, Section 8. “He may,” “he shall,” and numerous other references follow.

As The Gazette’s James Q. Lynch reported, none of those male pronouns is blocking Gov. Kim Rey-nolds from carrying out her powers and duties. But she thinks our governing document could use some modern copy editing, and so do we.

The Legislature had a chance to get the ball rolling in 2003, when then-state Rep. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, introduced a constitutional amendment that would have replaced all of those pronouns with “the governor.” Unfortunately, her proposal largely was ignored. Now, as a state senator, Jochum is among leaders eager to try again.

Amending the constitution is no small matter, we concede. Amendment proposals must be approved by the House and Senate in two consecutive General Assemblies before voters make the final call. Although they couldn’t envision a female governor, our constitutional authors did wisely create a prudent, cautious amendment process.

But editing to reflect modern realities is not unusual. In 1992, voters removed dueling as a disqualification for public office. In 2008, we deleted wording prohibiting anyone identified as an “idiot or insane” from voting, replacing it with “a person adjudged mentally incompetent to vote.”

Changes would send the right message at the right time. The Carrie Chapman Catt Center at Iowa State University says 92 Iowa women ran for Congress, the Legislature and statewide offices this fall. With one race still undecided, a record-breaking 45 women will serve in the next General Assembly.

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Those lawmakers can help send a crystal-clear message to other women and girls that glass ceilings under Iowa’s golden dome and elsewhere are shattering. Our state Constitution should reflect that welcome reality.

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

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