Iowa Democrats rally against voter suppression

Demonstrators gathered on the Pentacrest Saturday to protest laws restricting voting access passed in Iowa and across the country.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague leads a march during a rally for voting rights at the Pentacrest on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

The March on Old Capitol for Voting Rights was one of over 50 nonviolent rallies held across the nation protesting the 389 bills suppressing voting methods that have been introduced by over 48 states across the country.

In 90 degree weather on Saturday afternoon, around 100 Iowa voters, demonstrators, and politicians gathered on the Pentacrest to protest the rampant voter suppression laws being passed by the state legislature.

One of many speakers at the rally, Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, emphasized the importance of elections that are easily accessible for all voters.

“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and any democracy. The voters must rule. Not money, not violence, not race, or gender, or class,” Bolkcom said.

In March, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 413 into law, which changes Iowa’s elections by restricting who can collect and return others’ ballots, shortening the early-voting timeframe, closing polls an hour earlier, and more.

State Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City, who recently announced her bid for congress, said that voting rights are fundamental to democracy and stressed the importance of maintaining the freedom to vote for those who represent you.

But with legislation being passed throughout the nation restricting voting rights, including in Iowa, Bohannan stated that “free and fair” elections are being compromised.

“Iowa has always had a real commitment to democracy, a real commitment to free and fair elections,” Bohannan said. “But with this legislation we are seeing Iowans in the legislature turn their back on that commitment.”

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The March On Old Capitol for Voting Rights was a non-violent, non-partisan, grassroots event mobilizing voters as a direct response to this law, urging the passage of federal legislation that will provide easier access to voting. Speakers ranged from state representatives to city council members and local activists, including Iowa Democratic Black Caucus Chair, Al Womble.

“We have to be intentional about our outreach. We have to make meaningful events,” Womble said. “And we have to let them know that this isn’t necessarily about a candidate, this isn’t about a party.”

The rally fell on the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. A snippet of the speech was played, encouraging demonstrators to “not fall into complacency on the march towards social justice,” said Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter.

After the rally, demonstrators marched through the ped mall, shouting call and response chants such as, “We’re voters. We fight. No governor can steal our rights.”

In an interview following the event, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague encouraged those who are eligible to vote to do so and recognize that their votes make a difference.

“I want people to know that, you know, again, our votes do matter, who we put in office does matter,” Teague said. “And we need everybody that is eligible to vote, to vote not only in national but in local elections, because it does matter.”