Today, NPR and the Center for Public Integrity exposed how closing polling locations could affect the outcomes of key races in Iowa, including its U.S. Senate race. Since the 2016 general election, Iowa has lost 261 polling places. These closures disproportionately impact communities of color, rural communities, and low-income communities. This crisis is the result of Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ failure to protect Iowans from COVID-19 and her willingness to engage in voter suppression.
Make no mistake, Gov. Reynolds’ own failure to lead during the pandemic and to protect the vote is part of a partisan power grab in the state. This is part of a larger strategy from the Right to force through an unpopular agenda by rigging the system—and the consequences are that marginalized communities are more greatly impacted. She has even boasted about how COVID-19 is negatively impacting Democratic candidates like U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield. After Greenfield canceled a cross-state tour after coming into contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, Gov. Reynolds mocked Greenfield at a Republican campaign event that featured several unmasked participants and guests.
Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who also attended the event, has praised Gov. Reynolds for her handling of the pandemic though there have been more than 120,000 cases in Iowa, and more than 30,000 cases just this month.
Marginalized communities—Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), rural communities and low-income communities—have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Not only that, but these voters continue to be disenfranchised in Iowa. We have both a public duty and a moral responsibility to ensure that the voices—and votes—of marginalized people are heard and counted in the 2020 election.
The connection between reproductive freedom and protecting the right to vote is clear. Without elections that are fair, secure, and accessible, we can’t elect leaders who share and will represent the values of the 70% of Iowans who support the legal right to abortion.
Ensuring that our democracy facilitates participation for every body is critical to electing leaders who will safeguard our freedom. It’s no coincidence that the states that have come under scrutiny for voter suppression are the same states passing extreme bans on abortion.
President Trump and his anti-choice Republican allies, including Gov. Reynolds and Sen. Ernst, have made it no secret that their real goal is to stop people from exercising their right to vote. They are now even posing a risk to public health by demanding people pick between their health and their right to vote.