I have sat on this one for a while. And with the second funnel deadline passing, it seems now is as good a time as any to address this concern.
Iowa Republicans in the legislature are accused of “voter suppression” all of the time. Any time they work on a bill to strengthen Iowa’s election integrity — it is always a case of “voter suppression.”
Or at least, that’s what the Democrats say.
In all of those cases, I would disagree. And the facts would certainly disagree. It actually seems that the more election-related laws the Iowa legislature passes, the more voters participate.
That is the opposite of voter suppression.
But there is one form of voter suppression that Republicans in the Iowa legislature are 100 percent guilty of.
Republicans in the Iowa legislature are guilty of voter suppression when it comes to voter knowledge.
What do I mean, you ask? Every year good, strong conservative bills die. Now, anyone with a lick of common sense understands the Iowa legislature can’t address every issue under the sun in one year. But let’s look at the facts on a couple of key bills and then you’ll understand what I mean when I say the Iowa Republican legislature is guilty of voter suppression.
Rewind to last year — 2020. A bill proposing an abortion neutrality amendment to the Iowa Constitution died in the Iowa House. Republican House leadership simply killed it. They allowed the bill to die. They never brought it up for a vote. It died.
Republican voters in Iowa did not know which Republicans were against the bill, therefore they could not make educated decisions at the voting booth during the primary or general election. Leadership provided protection for pro-choice Republicans in the Iowa House rather than information to Republican voters.
Republican voters were suppressed of information.
Fast forward to this year — 2021. A bill in the Iowa Senate that declared bathrooms in Iowa schools needed to be utilized based on an individual’s biological sex/gender. It died in the Iowa Senate Education Committee. Did it die to a lack of votes? Did it die due to the fact that the House wasn’t going to move it? We don’t know.
Also this year. A bill allowing parents with children in Iowa’s failing schools to receive scholarships to use for private school died in the Iowa House. Again, House leadership killed it by simply not bringing it up for a vote in the House Education Committee. There were Republican members in the Iowa House who opposed the GOP platform and instead sided with public school indoctrinators and the teacher’s union.
But voters do not know which Republicans opposed that bill — unless they spoke out against it publicly — because it wasn’t voted on in committee. Did the bill have enough GOP support to advance through the Education Committee? We don’t know.
Back to the Senate, where a religious freedom and restoration act bill died in committee. It died because it was not brought up for a vote and deadlines passed. Did it die due to a lack of votes in the Senate committee? Did it die due to a lack of votes in the Senate overall? Did it die in the Senate because the Republican Senators did not want to take those bullets just for the bill not to move in the House?
Again, we do not know.
Also in the Senate, a couple of vaccine-related bills died. According to Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, there weren’t 26 Republican votes to move the bills. Activists who lobbied for the bill’s passage dispute that claim. Ultimately, we don’t know if they had the votes.
Bills are not put to the floor if the votes are not there. They are not put on the agenda and voted on in committee if the votes are not there. Weak-kneed Republican legislators are protected while conservative platform principles are essentially crapped on.
This is purely leadership’s decision.
Leadership should instead give the people what they deserve — an honest voting record that provides a fair baseline to make decisions at the ballot box.
For one thing, some of these Republican no’s may turn into a yes when they actually are forced to go on the record.
But more than that, these votes would give Iowans the ability to make the most informed decision possible every two years when it comes time to vote.
Iowa Republicans deserve to know which Republicans are killing bills that relate to things such as abortion, parental choice in education, LGBTQ issues and medical freedom — among many other things.
Every single person serving in the Iowa legislature is supposed to be an “elected leader.” Leaders lead, they don’t seek protection and shelter. They don’t hide their opposition to basic party principles.
That is what cowards do.
And leaders don’t allow cowards to be comfortable.
But that is exactly what happens when bills are killed simply because there aren’t enough Republican votes to pass them.
Here is the deal — there is nothing Democrats can do in Iowa to stop the Republicans from doing anything they want to do. The GOP controls the House, the Senate and Terrace Hill.
This is the fifth straight year Republicans have enjoyed a trifecta in state government, and we’re still having some battles on some pretty basic GOP platform issues. These are battles that should’ve been won, oh, I don’t know, four or five years ago. Yet here we are.
Legislative leaders should remember every person there is supposed to be there to represent 30,000 or 60,000 Iowans. They aren’t supposed to protect three or four or six Republicans unwilling to do what the party platform proposes.
Providing protection is suppressing Iowa Republican voters of valuable knowledge. Knowledge needed to make truly informed decisions at the ballot box.
Leadership is not keeping people in the dark, it is bringing the darkness into light.
It’s what Iowans deserve. Knowledge is power, right? But in politics, a lack of knowledge creates voter suppression of the worst kind — an uninformed electorate.