Des Moines Register. July 9, 2020.

In face of coronavirus pandemic, Iowa should position itself for a largely remote general election in November

Gov. Kim Reynolds has still not signed an executive order restoring voting rights to felons. She did, however, find a pen to sign a bill that could reduce voter turnout.

The latest GOP-crafted elections law prevents the Iowa Secretary of State from automatically mailing absentee ballot request forms to registered voters.

That means current secretary Paul Pate must now ask the Legislative Council — a Republican-controlled group of politicians — for permission to do for the November general election exactly what he did for the June 2 primary election.

Pate, also a Republican, rightly sent absentee ballot request forms (not ballots) to all registered voters in the state.

The goal was to protect the public amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The result was record voter turnout in the primary.

Pate, like other reasonable people, considered that a good thing.

But legislative Republicans apparently don’t want so many Iowans participating in democracy. Perhaps they worry they’ll be voted out of office. So they quickly passed a bill limiting the secretary of state’s authority.

What should Pate do now?

Immediately seek approval from the council to proceed. Publicly pressure the members. Talk to media about this issue. Lay out the argument for why his office should mail request forms.

It is a pretty easy argument to make.

We are in the midst of an infectious disease pandemic.

This coronavirus spreads between people in close proximity. It will still be doing that in November. It will do that in schools and churches and other polling places on Election Day. People should avoid unnecessarily congregating indoors and sharing air.

The way to help them avoid doing that is to make it easy to vote by mail.

Poll workers may not be available.

Many Iowa poll workers are retirees. Older people are at greater risk of complications and death if they contract this virus. They should not step forward to sit indoors at a table while voters (and all their germs) file through.

More than 250 poll workers in Polk County alone declined to work the June primary directly due to fear of the virus, according to the county auditor.

If workers across Iowa cannot or will not show up in November, voters could find themselves standing in long lines to cast a ballot. That again would increase the risk of contracting the virus and can be avoided with more absentee voting.

All voters should be treated equally.

With Pate’s plans up in the air, Iowa is now potentially facing 99 different plans for sending ballot requests in 99 counties.

The county auditors in Black Hawk, Johnson, Linn and Polk counties recently said they would send the forms to registered voters in their jurisdictions.

Maybe other auditors will do the same — if they can scrounge up the money for postage. Maybe they won’t.

Maybe some Iowans will receive a form from a political party or special interest group. Maybe they won’t. Perhaps only Democratic county auditors will send forms. Maybe Republicans will, too. Perhaps new voters and registered independents won’t get forms from anyone.

If the secretary of state sends them, that creates certainty, uniformity and equal opportunity to vote remotely.

Absentee voting does not result in fraud.

President Donald Trump has tried to diminish public confidence in our election system, claiming it was “rigged” until it landed him in office.

Now facing reelection, he’s going after “mail-in” voting. “Bad things happen with Mail-Ins,” he recently tweeted.

He doesn’t seem to understand that absentee voting and “mail-in” voting are the same thing.

Or that he himself voted absentee in the recent Florida primary election.

Or that many Iowans have for years used remote voting methods without problems.

Iowans should not be caught in the cross hairs of political games.

Legislative Republicans were chummy with Pate when he helped craft and push an unnecessary Voter ID law, supposedly in response to voter fraud, which was essentially nonexistent. It resulted in confusion, court challenges, disenfranchisement and hurdles to voting.

Then he fumbled a constitutionally mandated requirement to notify the public of a resolution passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature to add language about the right “to keep and bear arms” to the Iowa Constitution.

That screwup means the measure will not go before voters in this year’s general election.

The GOP displeasure with him over that was likely exacerbated when he mailed absentee ballot request forms to all Iowans.

Isn’t Pate getting tired of the political antics?

Because Iowa voters sure are.

The current secretary of state needs to focus his energies solely on ensuring every Iowan age 18 and over can and does vote.

He should forcefully and publicly insist lawmakers allow him to do his job without interference.

And when November rolls around, the rest of us should kick out of office the lawmakers who are intent on suppressing our constitutional rights.

Please use an absentee ballot to do that.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. July 7, 2020.

Trade deal with Canada, Mexico is good news for Iowa

A new trade agreement connecting the United States, Canada and Mexico is a good deal for Iowa’s farmers.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement became effective on July 1, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement that had been in place since 1994.

It is a massive document that brings together the three nations. Within it are many opportunities to increase the exports of Iowa’s farmers to the countries that are the two largest export markets for American farm products. In 2018, those countries accounted for more than $39.7 billion in food and agricultural exports.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue summed it up this way: ”USMCA creates more market access for farmers from across our nation to sell their wholesome and nutritious products to our closest neighbors. This is a better deal for America that will grow our economy and put more money in the pockets of American families.”

These elements of the agreement are expected to benefit America’s farmers:

• Elimination of a Canadian milk pricing plan that allowed low-priced Canadian products to undersell American products.

• Supports 21st century innovation in agriculture, such as gene splicing.

• Requiring sanitary standards based on science.

• Supporting processed fruits from American producers.

• Expanded access to Canada for American chicken, turkey and eggs.

• Providing tariff-free access to Canada and Mexico for nearly all American agricultural commodities

This trade agreement will put money in the pockets of Iowa farmers while giving our neighbors in Canada and Mexico access to wholesome foods from the Hawkeye State.

A lot of leaders from the government and the private sector were responsible for putting this deal together. We thank them for their efforts and hope that they can get the same kinds of results in future trade negotiations with other countries.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. July 12, 2020.

If you delay it, more will come to ‘Field of Dreams’ MLB game

“This will put the Field of Dreams on another level of popularity.”

“For the city, there is every positive emotion out there. You can’t express it using words.”

“The amount of recognition coming, not only to the Field of Dreams, is something you can’t put a price tag on.”

Those were just a few of the quotes from local officials, gushing with excitement 11 months ago when Major League Baseball announced two of its most renowned franchises would play a regular-season game in an 8,000-seat stadium at the movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.

The “is this heaven?” cliches runneth over.

TH sports staff voted the announcement of the game as the biggest local sports story of 2019. The news staff voted it the top news story.

The newspaper staff as a whole said the announcement was among the 20 biggest news stories of the decade.

But it won’t be the biggest story of 2020. We already know what that will be.

Just like everything else about the past four-plus months, plans for an MLB game at the Field of Dreams look radically different than expected.

Still, MLB says the game will go on, albeit with a different lineup: The St. Louis Cardinals will replace the New York Yankees in the Aug. 13 contest so that the teams can adhere to a modified schedule aimed at limiting travel.

And as of last week, the game officially was on the newly released schedule.

But should it be?

When MLB announced it would bring its show on the road, officials touted the opportunity the move would present for smaller communities.

MLB Vice President of Communications Michael Teevan noted that the league held a game in Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2016 and one in Omaha, Neb., last year, the first MLB games in North Carolina and Nebraska, respectively. Teevan said Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it a priority to create these opportunities for “fans to experience significant events ... and to create memories for fans who are outside of Major League markets.”

But do we really want Iowa’s first ever (only?) Major League game to be played in an empty stadium in a town without festivities?

Immediately after the initial announcement, local hotels booked up with eager fans making reservations for this August. Local communities held informational sessions for residents interested in listing their homes on the vacation rental site Airbnb.com to provide more lodging options.

Dyersville, a community that is no stranger to big events, went into full-on tourism mode, planning to make the most of the thousands and thousands of visitors the town could expect. Planning also started among tourism officials in Dubuque. And Galena, Ill.

But now many of those plans have been shelved.

Even if the game is played, it is unclear if fans will be able to attend, and social-distancing concerns have curtailed any opportunity to build a community event around it. That was part of the reasoning behind bringing a big-league game to a small town.

Baseball could give a huge surge to a place like Dyersville. But that won’t happen when Dubuque County is dealing with a surge of an entirely different nature.

Folks in this neck of the woods were looking forward to showing off our little piece of heaven to baseball fans from New York and Chicago. MLB should recognize this new reality for what it is and give Dyersville another shot at the whole experience: the game, the fans, the tourism, the spotlight.

Postpone the game until 2021.

Or, if they play the game in Dyersville next month, let’s put the Field of Dreams back on the roster for 2021 and give this community a chance to experience the full-blown festivities we all hoped to see.

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