A guest post from Zack Davis, the state director for Jason Kander’s Let America Vote organization in Iowa. Photo of a Let America Vote intern knocking doors for a state legislative candidate in West Des Moines.
On May 5th, 2017, our state — long seen as a leader in voter participation and election integrity — took a big step backward with the passage of House File 516.
Instead of lowering barriers and increasing access to the ballot for Iowans, the legislation championed by Secretary of State Paul Pate injected partisan politics into the voting process, instituting an unnecessary and confusing ID requirement and cutting the state’s early-voting period by 11 days, among other measures.
This new law was a hamfisted solution to a nonexistent problem, making voting harder for thousands of eligible Iowans, sowing confusion among local election officials and forcing new costs on the state. Republican lawmakers and now-Gov. Kim Reynolds went along with it anyway.
Now they’re going to try to use that law to create a narrower and more GOP-friendly electorate that will help them win elections.
That’s where Let America Vote comes in.
Laws like HF 516 come straight out of the Republican voter suppression playbook, in which politicians sow distrust in voting systems, introduce obstacles to voting and then create obstacles to the obstacles, so that on Election Day fewer voters can exercise their constitutional rights.
Standing up to those laws is exactly why Jason Kander founded Let America Vote last year. The fight for voting rights is fundamental in this country, and winning it is more important than ever. We’ll never make progress on the key issues facing this state and country until we ensure every eligible voter’s voice is heard on Election Day.
When politicians make it harder for people to vote, our mission is make it a whole lot harder for them to get reelected. In Iowa, that means challenging vote suppressors like Reynolds and Pate and all their enablers in the legislature — and supporting voting-rights champions to take their places.
To that end, we’ve recruited more than 50 interns, and are building a statewide network of supporters and volunteers. Starting this month, our boots-on-the-ground organization will be knocking doors across Iowa to elect candidates who respect and value voting rights.
The work Let America Vote does is not fancy or flashy: It’s old-fashioned, street-by-street, block-by-block organizing. Over the next five months, we’re going to have thousands of one-on-one conversations with Iowans on the importance of turning out in November and supporting candidates who believe in democracy and govern accordingly.
As activists in Iowa well know, that approach can make a huge difference. Last year, Let America Vote hit 194,000 doors in Virginia, winning nine of our 10 races and flipping seven legislative seats from Republican to Democrat.
We’re excited to be underway here, and ready to make a difference for pro-democracy candidates. Republicans can try to suppress their way to victory with bad laws like HF 516 — we’re going to win by energizing and educating voters on the real, positive change they can make in their state.
And if anyone has any doubts on whether that can work, I have a list of former Virginia lawmakers with a lot of free time these days.
by Zack Davis
Iowa State Director, Let America Vote