Sen. Chuck Grassley won’t support any currently proposed federal legislation that reforms state election laws.
Iowa’s senior Republican US senator made that point clear after being pressed by a constituent during a town hall in Pocahontas on Tuesday.
“What about gerrymandering?” Grassley was asked. “As you just acknowledged a while ago, only a handful of congressional seats are going to be close races and that’s because district lines are being drawn more and more so that there are more and more safe seats.”
The questioner asked Grassley if he thought partisan redistricting was a threat to representative government and, if so, what can Congress do about it.
“I don’t think it’s a threat toward democracy because we’ve had gerrymandering ever since Congressman [Elbridge] Gerry in Massachusetts made the word gerrymandering a word back in the early 1800s,” Grassley said.
Grassley said the US House of Representatives would be better if every district was nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. He also critiqued Wisconsin’s redistricting process—a subject the questioner brought up—and said the Badger State should adopt Iowa’s nonpartisan map-making policy.
“I would also encourage Wisconsin to do it like Iowa does it because we don’t have this problem in Iowa,” Grassley said.
The questioner followed up by asking Grassley if he would support the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, an extensive piece of legislation that passed through the House but remains stalled in the Senate. Aspects of the bill include turning Election Day into a federal holiday, campaign finance reform, establishing federal criteria for redistricting, and more.
“No Republicans voted for it and it’s not going to come up in the Senate because Republicans won’t let it come up,” the questionnaire said.
Grassley said that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) wants to bring it up, but it takes 60 votes to pass in that chamber and he doesn’t have the numbers.
“That bill does do for gerrymandering like you say, but it also has public financing for elections. Do you taxpayers want to pay for my getting reelected? I don’t think you do,” Grassley said.
“You can strip that stuff,” the questioner responded. “You could personally support a bill that dealt with gerrymandering, right? Just a standalone bill that dealt with gerrymandering. Would you do that?”
“The answer is ‘no’ because what you want to do is federalize elections and that’s what Pelosi’s bill does,” Grassley said referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California).
Grassley said the House bill covers too much ground for him to support and he’s not in favor of a bill that would do away with state election laws. The questioner asked Grassley if he would support a bill that got rid of everything else in the House bill and only focused on gerrymandering.
“If you want to ask me if just a gerrymandering bill would come up, then show me what that bill says and I’ll read it and give you an answer,” Grassley said. “But in the meantime, it’s part of this other bill that would nationalize all laws—election laws.”
In 1982 and 2006, Grassley voted to renew the Voting Rights Act, a historic piece of legislation that created federal protections to ensure everyone—especially Black voters in the Jim Crow south—had equal access to the ballot box.
by Ty Rushing
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