Democrats warn of voter suppression at virtual Progress Iowa Corn Feed

Iowa and national Democrats discussed the importance of voting in the 2020 general election at the sixth annual Progress Iowa Corn Feed, and said Republicans were trying to make it more difficult to vote.


Ryan Adams

Former U.S. Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks in a pre-recorded message during Progress Iowa’s Cornfeed event on Tuesday, September 2, 2020. This is the sixth annual cornfeed event for Progress Iowa. (Ryan Adams/The Daily Iowan)

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor

Iowa Democratic elected officials and national figures implored Iowans to vote in the general election and warned of voter suppression in the state and nationally during the sixth annual Progress Iowa Corn Feed. 

The event, held virtually over Facebook Live with around 2,000 viewers at its peak, featured a slate of speakers in mostly pre-recorded messages, including former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Ashley Biden, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, and Iowa’s Democratic members in the U.S. House, as well as House candidates J.D. Scholten and Rita Hart.

Buttigieg, who won the Iowa caucuses in February before dropping out of the presidential race, said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed injustices in political and economic systems, and that the future should not go back to “an old normal.”

“I’m convinced that the decisions we’re making right now, at the start of what’s going to be America’s deciding decade for this century, is going to shape everything for the rest of our lives,” he said. 

Ashley Biden, Joe Biden’s daughter, appealed to her father’s policy proposals, including expanding the Affordable Care Act and addressing climate change and gun violence, and she said Republicans in Iowa are trying to make it harder to vote. 

Republican state lawmakers passed a bill in June that barred Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate from sending out absentee ballot requests to all registered voters on his own, but the Republican-led Legislative Council authorized Pate to mail out ballots in July.

The Trump campaign sued three Iowa counties — Johnson, Linn, and Woodbury — for sending out absentee ballots with pre-filled information. 

“In the end, the best way to fight back is at the ballot box,” Biden said. “…Together, we can reclaim our future, and help our country move closer to its founding promise of a more perfect union,” she said.

Greenfield, who is in a competitive race with Republican Senator Joni Ernst, urged participants to make a plan to vote and to help Democrats win a majority in the Senate. 

The 2020 Senate race in Iowa is rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report, and it’s viewed by national Democrats as an important seat to win in order to flip the Senate.

“If we come together, and we roll up our sleeves, and we give it all we’ve got between now and November 3, we will not only win this United States Senate seat, we are going to win races up and down the ballot,” Greenfield said. 

Iowa Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, led a live discussion with Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote; Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way; and Jason Kander, the founder of Let America Vote, on voting rights and threats to voting in Iowa and the U.S. 

Smith said the voter ID law in Iowa, which requires voters to have a valid ID to vote, and the removal of sorting machines at the Waterloo post office are both ways Iowa voters have been suppressed. 

“Here specifically in Iowa, we’ve seen a lot of changes within the voting process,” he said. 

Jealous said voter turnout was an important focus of his organization, and that increasing turnout is especially important for Iowa, which is seen as a battleground state in the 2020 election.

“We’ve got to make sure right now that everybody, especially in every battleground state like Iowa, knows how to vote this time, is prepared to do it, and that they follow through,” he said.


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