“This race is about one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation, the right to vote,” Brad Anderson told a Democratic group at an Iowa City fund raiser yesterday.
The secretary of state candidate was in town raising both dollars and his profile. Neither party has a primary so Anderson faces Republican Paul Pate, who held the job for one term in the 1990s, in November. (Libertarian Jake Porter, who ran in 2010, is also running again.)
The race has changed radically since December, when GOP incumbent Matt Schultz shifted to the open 3rd CD race after Tom Latham retired. But much of Anderson's speech, at least in front of a partisan crowd, focused on how he would differ from Schultz.
“Voter suppression is un-American, it is un-Iowan and it is ending the day I take office,” Anderson said.
A particular concern, for Anderson and the attendees, was Schultz's use of federal money to hire a criminal investigator to seek out voter fraud cases.
“Millions of votes have been cast in Iowa these last three years, and just six people have plead guilty. In Lee county for the first time a case actually went to a jury. A mother
of three young kids was facing 15 years in jail for what the lead juror
called an honest mistake," he said, adding that the jury took just 40 minutes to find her not guilty.
The sentiment was echoed by county attorney Janet Lyness, who said she had been approached by the investigator about one case, a non-citizen who had inadvertently registered when getting a driver's license because of a language barrier.
“Instead of spending time on a murder or a sexual abuse case," Lyness said, "we had an
agent spending hours and hours on a case where I said we’re not going to
prosecute because there’s not enough evidence he willfully violated a
law.” (This is what experienced attorneys call "prosecutorial discretion.")
Worse, Anderson said, was an incident in Mason City where, “For
the first time in Iowa history three eligible voters got their votes thrown
out because they were on a bad list (of felons). And that was only one county. We
don’t know how many other people wrongly got their votes thrown out because they were on a bad list.”
Anderson said fixing these list problems and making better use of electronic poll books, rather than investigations and voter ID laws, would be a better way to improve election integrity. , increased use of electronic poll books would be a better way to insure election integrity. “Electronic poll books immediately lets (workers) know if you’re on
the felon registry, if you’re eligible, and if you’re in the right place.
That would do way more to insure integrity than voter ID would.”
As for ID itself, Anderson said “The face of voter ID is not students. It’s the disabled community.”
Anderson has set a goal of making Iowa number one in voter turnout. "I’m tired of getting beat by Minnesota.” To do this, he recommends making voter registration available on line ("They do it in over a dozen other states”) and allowing permanent
“If you could check a box when you register that said send me a ballot
for every election period, you want to talk about increasing turnout,
that would be amazing,” Anderson said. Under current Iowa law, voters must request mailed ballots separately for each election.
Still, Anderson, Iowa has one of the best early voting laws, letting voters cast early votes up to 40 days before primary and general elections with no reasons required. He also noted that Terry Branstad had signed the law.
“This idea of suppressing votes is new to Iowa. These are not Democrat vs Republican ideas. These are Iowa ideas. These are Bob Ray ideas and Tom Harkin ideas.”
The race is low profile so far, but Anderson said national superPACs plan to throw tens of millions into secretary of state races in Iowa and a handful of other states.
In addition to Lyness, other elected officials and candidates on hand included the three leading Democratic supervisor candidates, incumbent Janelle Rettig and candidates Mike Carberry and Lisa Green-Douglass, along with Rod Sullivan whose seat is on the presidential cycle. Auditor Travis Weipert and Kingsley Botchway from the city council were also there.