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Rally against voter suppression Saturday will gather activists, elected officials and candidates on the Pentacrest

March On Old Capitol for Voting Rights

Pentacrest -- Saturday, Aug. 28, 2 p.m.


A demonstrator holds a sign referencing the Iowa state motto during a pro-choice rally on the University of Iowa Pentacrest, Friday, May 17, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

There will be a rally on the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Saturday protesting attempts at voter suppression that proliferated in the wake of the 2020 election, as well as constant lies about voter fraud spread by Donald Trump.

“Between January 1 and July 14, 2021, at least 18 states enacted 30 laws that restrict access to the vote,” the Brennan Center for Justice said in a report published last month. “These laws make mail voting and early voting more difficult, impose harsher voter ID requirements, and make faulty voter purges more likely, among other things.”

According to the center, “This wave of restrictions on voting — the most aggressive we have seen in more than a decade of tracking state voting laws — is in large part motivated by false and often racist allegations about voter fraud.”

Although most of the national attention regarding voter suppression bills has focused on states like Georgia and Texas, Iowa was actually the first state to pass a major bill restricting voting rights this year.

SF 413 moved through the legislature at unusual speed. There were only eight days between its introduction and its final passage in the Iowa Senate and House. The bill only received support from Republicans; all the Democrats in both chambers opposed it.

The 37-page bill imposed restrictions on early voting, voting by mail and voting on Election Day, and makes it easier to remove people from voting rolls and harder for third-party candidates to get on the ballot for statewide and federal races. It criminalizes possible errors made by local election officials, making them punishable by large fines and up to five years in prison.

None of the Republican lawmakers who spoke in favor of the bill claimed that voter fraud was happening in Iowa, although some repeated lies about the 2020 election told by former President Trump and cited debunked allegations of widespread voter fraud in states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia. State and federal courts had already rejected those allegations as baseless.

Gov. Reynolds signed the bill into law on March 8. A month before she signed SF 413, Reynolds was asked during a news conference if there were any problems with fraud in Iowa elections, and she said there wasn’t.

“I think we do it well in Iowa, I’m proud of our system,” the governor replied.

After signing the SF 413 into law, Reynolds released a written statement in which she claimed the new restrictions and criminal penalties in the bill were needed to “promote more transparency and accountability, giving Iowans even greater confidence to cast their ballot.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa filed a lawsuit the day after the bill was signed, asking the court to invalidate provisions of the new law restricting voting as violations of the Iowa Constitution.

“If the concept of ‘election integrity’ encompasses secure elections in which all voters have fair opportunities to participate so that the results accurately reflect the will of Iowa’s electorate, then the Voter Suppression Bill directly hinders that goal,” the lawsuit states.

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According to the filing, “these unnecessary voting restrictions independently and collectively impose an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote and violate multiple provisions of the Iowa Constitution.”

That lawsuit is still pending.

Saturday’s rally on the Pentacrest is one of more 50 that will take place around the county that day, as part of March On for Voting Rights.

The Iowa City rally — March On Old Capitol for Voting Rights — is being held in collaborations with Moms Demand Action, Beloved Community Initiative, Teamsters Local #238, Corridor Community Action Network, Johnson County Interfaith Coalition, the Iowa City Eastside Democrats, New Iowa Project, Our Revolution Johnson County and Potluck Insurgency.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., and will feature speakers, including local Democratic leaders (Mayor Bruce Teague, Mayor Pro Temp Mazahir Salih, Supervisor Royceann Porter and Sen. Joe Bolkcom), as well as two members of the Iowa House who currently running for higher office — Rep. Christina Bohannan of Iowa City, who is running for Congress, and Rep. Ras Smith of Waterloo, who is running for governor.

Following the speeches, there will be a march down Iowa Avenue that will proceed onto Gilbert and College streets before arriving at the Ped Mall.

The Iowa City Latino Festival, which is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, will be happening on the Ped Mall when the march concludes.


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