Letter to the Editor

Misplaced focus

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sometimes people in positions of political power lose perspective in relation to the common man and woman. Take the example of recent comments from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross displaying his bemusement at the necessity for furloughed federal workers to feed themselves and their families.

The same effect applies in Iowa. Regarding the outcome of the 2018 Iowa House 55 race, where the question was the status of 29 ballots based on a technicality of their postmarking, a focus on "legislative intent" alone is misplaced. Law is read in terms of such intent, but laws are always interpreted and even their legality is subject to question. Mere passage of a law doesn't guarantee that it is going to pass muster in the courts. To characterize raising questions in this case about voter intent — the voters the law is intended to serve—as a "circus" is to lose the important underlying question … the enfranchisement of Iowa voters.

Secretary of State Paul Pate is human. His office is not sacrosanct or perfect. It has certified results including non-qualifying votes by felons. It is joining in a legal contest about the lawfulness of a rule under an existing statute that limits how county auditors seek absentee ballot information. Such issues and debates should not be debased. To the contrary, our system of governance where the actions of public officials are subject to question and criticism, is what is sacred — not any one official's view.

Without the duly prescribed pursuit in the Iowa legislature of the question of the 29 House 55 ballots, perhaps there would not now be discussion about the possible need to change Iowa Code. Discussion about that need comes from Representative John H. Wills, along with the quotes above. A focus on legislators, partisanship, power brokering — or even baldly on who won the election in House 55 — is misplaced in relation to those 29 voters and other potential future voters like them. Our processes of debate are essential if we are to focus our intentions broadly, as our government so desperately needs to do, on "we the people."

Dr. Karen A. Larson

Spirit Lake