A wide array of progressive organizations gathered yesterday at the Capitol to speak out against the new Republican legislative majorities’ far-right agenda. Nathan Blake of Des Moines took the podium to criticize Secretary of State Paul Pate’s voter suppression proposal that would impose new restrictive identification laws on Iowa voters. Blake was speaking on behalf of LULAC Iowa and the Asian and Latino coalition. It was one of the more energetic and well-crafted speeches of the day, and just might be a preview of a potential matchup in 2018.
“This is an all-out assault on our fundamental right to vote,” Blake told the crowd of several hundred progressives. “We’ve heard a lot of right-wing rhetoric about voter fraud. But you know what we don’t hear? Specific examples that voter ID would prevent … Despite the lies and conspiracy theories tweeted out by our President-elect, widespread voter fraud is a myth.”
Republicans are expected to act on Pate’s proposal and possibly add extra restrictions of their own. One of the biggest concerns is what impact it will have on college students, who move often and will likely have difficulty getting a new state-issued ID from the Secretary of State’s office.
“Just weeks ago, Paul Pate himself said that Iowa is one of the best states in the nation for voter integrity,” Blake said. “Now, suddenly, we’re told we have such a serious voter integrity problem that we need to pass a voter suppression bill to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Iowans. I don’t buy it, and neither should you … They care more about partisan politics than they do about our democracy. The party in power is trying to make it harder for voters to hold them accountable.”
Democrats and college students are already gearing up for a legislative fight over Pate’s proposal, widely seen as an effort to suppress votes from Iowans who might not vote for Republicans.
“Voter ID is a 21st Century poll tax,” Blake continued. “There’s no question it will disproportionally affect working class Iowans, students, people of color, people with disabilities and the elderly. We are going to fight this voter suppression bill every step of the way, just like civil rights activists before us fought Jim Crow.”
Many Democratic leaders and activists have urged Blake to consider running for a statewide office in 2018, Secretary of State chief among them. Blake, an Assistant Attorney General for Iowa, is seen by many as a rising star in the party. He would have the ability to raise statewide money, could give young voters a candidate with a fresh face to get excited about, and would add some diversity to a statewide Democratic ticket.
Blake’s first major involvement in politics came in 2007, when he left his job at a Des Moines law firm to work on Barack Obama’s Iowa Caucus campaign. He served on the Des Moines School Board and ran for State Senate in 2014. He lives in Des Moines with his wife and three young children.
Watch his speech in this video clip:
by Pat Rynard