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Voter Registration Deadline Approaching!
10.13.14
October 25th, 2014 at 5 p.m. is the last day to pre-register to vote in Iowa. If you have moved since you last registered, you are required to update... Read More...
Public Comment on Transportation Waiver!
09.06.14
The Iowa Department of Human Services is taking public comments on their request to extend the waiver of non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT)... Read More...
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2014 INFONET #10

Issue 10, September 24, 2014

Articles in This Issue:


The Countdown to Election Day: It's Time to Vote!

On Tuesday, November 4th Iowans will go to the polls to cast their vote for people who will represent them in Washington, D.C., Des Moines, and their county seats.   While every election is important, this is a significant year in Iowa.

  • This will be the first time in 40 years Iowa has had an open US Senate race.
  • Iowans will have at least two new faces representing them in the US House with open races in two Congressional districts.
  • Two candidates are hoping to be the first female member of Iowa’s Congressional delegation. 
  • Republicans control the Iowa House by only three votes, and Democrats control the Iowa Senate by only one vote.
  • Races are getting closer every year - with many in Iowa being decided by only a few votes.

There is a lot on the line in this election with both of the major parties trying to maintain control in both the US Congress and the Iowa Legislature. Polling in many races shows the candidates are running very close, with no one holding a decisive lead. Really, anything can happen this year.

Those elected in November will make many decisions that impact your life, on things like health care, community supports, Medicaid, education, immigration, war, and our economy. With so much riding on this election, it is important to take some time to get to know\the candidates and their stands on the issues before you vote.   On November 4, you will choose the people you trust to make the right decisions on the issues faced by our state, nation, and local governments.

In this issue, we have provided resources and information to help you make informed choices on the candidates you will support. Make your voice heard this November 4th because every vote counts - and there is a lot at stake this year.

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Voting Basics

Voting in Iowa is simple and accessible for voters of all abilities.  Before you head to the polls this November 4th to cast your vote, here are a few things you need to know.

1.   WHO CAN VOTE.

If you can check all of the following boxes, you are allowed to vote in Iowa:

I am a U.S. citizen.

I am an Iowa resident.

I am over the age of 18 - or will be 18 years old by Election Day (November 4, 2014). 

If you check any of the following boxes, you cannot vote in Iowa: 

I am a convicted felon and my voting rights have not been restored.

A judge ruled I am "not competent to vote."
 
Voting rights may be restored after completion of the sentence, any required probation, parole, or supervised release, and all court costs, fees, and restitutions have been paid. The Governor's Office is responsible for the restoration of voting rights. For more information, call the Governor's Office at 515-281-5211 or visit https://governor.iowa.gov/constituent-services/restoration-of-citizenship-rights/. The term "not competent to vote" is a very specific ruling and is very rarely used. It has nothing to do with whether you have a legal guardian, are living in an institution, are able to sign documents, or have given someone power of attorney.
 

2.    REGISTER TO VOTE.

If you want to exercise your right to vote, you must be registered. If you are already registered, you don't need to register again unless you have moved. If you aren't sure if you are registered, there are two easy ways to check:

Log onto https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/regtovote/search.aspx and enter your first name, last name and home zip code. If you are registered, you will be provided with your polling place address.

Call your county auditor's office. To find your local auditor, go to http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html.  
 
If you are not registered to vote, you have two options: pre-registration or Election Day registration.

PRE-REGISTRATION. Pre-registering will save you a lot of time, hassle, and worry on Election Day. The pre-registration deadline is Saturday, October 25 at 5 p.m. To pre-register, complete the voter registration form found here and return it to your
        county auditor’s office. Forms can also be found at your auditor's office.  If you are not physically able to sign the form, use a
        rubber stamp or a mark you use regularly. You may ask someone to sign your name for you as long as the person is with you
        when signing the form and does so at your request. Your county auditor will send you a voter registration card within two
        weeks, but you do not need to bring your card to the polls with you (although having it may speed things up).

ELECTION DAY REGISTRATION. You can also register on Election Day. If you choose to register on Election Day, you must:

  • Go to your correct polling place based on your current address on Election Day.  If you are unsure of your polling place, you can call your county auditor’s office or go online and search at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/pollingplace/search.aspx.

  • You will need to bring proof of your identity and where you live.  The best proof is your valid Iowa driver’s license with your current address. If you do not have an Iowa driver’s license, you may use another photo ID that is current, valid, and contains an expiration date. The following are acceptable IDs:
    • Iowa non-driver ID card.
    • Out-of-state driver's license or non-driver ID card.
    • U.S. passport.
    • U.S. military ID. 
    • ID card issued by employer.
    • Student ID issued by Iowa high school or college.
  • If your photo ID does not have your current address, you should bring other documents to prove where you live – be sure this includes your name and current address. Acceptable documents include:
    • Residential lease.
    • Utility bill (including a cell phone bill). 
    • Bank statement.
    • Paycheck. 
    • Government check or other government document.
  • If you do not have proof of identify and your current address, a registered voter from your precinct (such as a neighbor) may vouch for you. They will have to sign a document swearing they know you, and where you live.

3.     When to Vote.

This year Election Day is Tuesday, November 4. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you need a ride to the polls, contact a candidate you are supporting (most have programs to get people to the polls).

You may also vote early beginning Thursday, September 25, 2014. If you think you may not make it to your polling place on November 4th for any reason (such as bad weather, doctor’s appointments, or no transportation), you can vote early either in
        person or by absentee (mail-in) ballot.  In Iowa, you do not need a reason to vote early. Some people do it just because it stops
        the hundreds of political phone calls leading up to the election (it's true - if you vote early, candidates take your name off their
        call lists).

    • First, you must first be pre-registered to vote.  If you are, you have three early voting choices:
    • Voting by Mail.  To vote by mail, you must request an absentee ballot by mail by Friday, October 31 at 5 p.m. An absentee ballot request form is available at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/absenteeballotapp.pdf. Mail the completed, signed form to your county auditor. Once the county auditor receives your request form, you will be mailed a ballot. Absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than Monday, November 3 to be counted.  But do not wait until just before the Election to do all this - some post offices do not postmark these ballots and if they come in after November 4 without a postmark, they will not be counted.  So if you want to vote by mail early, get your request in soon and return your ballot well before the deadline.  We want your vote to count!

    • Voting in Your County Auditor's Office.  You can also vote early in your county auditor's office. You will be given an absentee ballot, but you vote the ballot right there in your county auditor's office.  When you are done, you'll just hand the completed ballot (in the secrecy envelopes) to your county auditor.  If you are not pre-registered to vote, you can pre-register and vote on the same day in your auditor's office.  Call your county auditor's office for their hours.

    • Voting Early at a Satellite Voting Station.  Some county auditors set up satellite voting stations where you can vote in-person absentee, the same as you would in the county auditor's office.  Usually these sites are in libraries, community centers, and senior centers - but sometimes they are in grocery stores and other places that are convenient for people.  Call your county auditor to find out if, when, and where they will offer satellite voting.


Remember! 
Accessible voting machines are available in all precincts. These machines can be used by any voter, not just those with disabilities.  If you need any assistance in voting, just talk to your precinct officials when you arrive at the polls.


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Be An Informed Voter

The winners of this year’s election will be making decisions that directly impact your daily life. Understanding each candidate’s position on the issues you care about is the key to making informed voting decisions on Election Day. 

There are many ways you can become an informed voter – from reading the newspaper and watching/listening to radio and TV programs to attending candidate events and listening to debates.  There are also many resources to help you research the candidates and their positions:

Information about all Democratic candidates for Governor, Congressional, and statewide offices: http://www.iowademocrats.org/. Click on the “Candidates” tab at the top of the website.

Information about all Republican candidates for Governor and Congressional offices: http://www.iowagop.org/. Choose “Candidates” under the “About” tab at the top of the website.

Information on state legislative candidates can be found at: http://www.infonetiowa.org/news/alerts/235-informed-voting-resources/.

A complete candidate list (along with contact information) is located on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website at http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/2014/general/candlist.pdf

Legislative and Congressional district maps are located on the Iowa Secretary’s of State’s website at http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/maps/.


The best way to find out how a candidate stands on issues is to ask.

ID Action has asked the candidates for US Senate, US Congress, Secretary of State, and Governor a few questions about their stands on issues of concern to voters with disabilities.  We will post each candidate's response to these questions at www.infonetiowa.org and www.idaction.org.


QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES FOR IOWA GOVERNOR:

  1. One in five Iowans are affected by disabilities. They want choices about where they live and work but those choices are too often limited by the inadequacy of state and federal policies and funding and the availability of community-based options. What specific measures are you willing to take to make sure that Iowans with disabilities have options to live, learn, work, and recreate in the communities and settings of their choice?
     
  2. Significant work has gone into the ongoing regionalization and redesign of the state's disability services system, yet funding continues to be unpredictable, creating uncertainties for the people receiving these services.  What would you do as Governor to ensure that services are available and funded, and what additional challenges do you see ahead?
     
  3. Iowans with brain injuries and developmental disabilities other than an intellectual disability have very few options for accessing services.  They are not considered "mandated populations" for regional services, private health insurance plans do not cover the types of services needed to maintain independence, and the existing "brain injury waiver" has a growing waiting list.  Iowa currently has no "developmental disabilities" waiver to extend Medicaid services to this population.  What would you do as Governor to make sure that Iowans with brain injuries and developmental disabilities have access to needed supports and services?

QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES FOR IOWA SECRETARY OF STATE: 

  1. Ensuring that citizens can vote with little or no difficulty is fundamental to a democracy yet many people with disabilities continue to report difficulties in exercising their right to vote. Despite improvements in recent years, voter turnout among 300,000+ voting age Iowans with disabilities in 2012 was 6.3% lower than turnout among voters without disabilities. If elected Secretary of State, what would you do to improve voter turnout among Iowans with disabilities and ensure that Iowa's electoral process and polling places are accessible to Iowans of all abilities?

QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES FOR US SENATE:

  1. The United State Senate has not yet voted to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; an international disability treaty supported by a broad coalition of more than 800 disability, civil rights, faith, business, and veterans’ organizations.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides a vital framework for creating legislation and policies around the world that embrace the rights and dignity of all persons with disabilities.  The US signed the treaty in 2009, but the Senate fell five votes short of the super majority vote required.  If elected, would you vote to ratify this treaty?
  2.  One in five Iowans are affected by disabilities. They want choices about where they live and work but those choices are too often limited by the inadequacy of state and federal policies and funding and the availability of community-based options. What specific measures are you willing to take to make sure that Iowans with disabilities have options to live, learn, work, and recreate in the communities and settings of their choice?

 

 Take Action Now - and help shape the elections this year!  

You may have other questions for people running for office in your area.  You might ask about funding for home and community based services (HCBS) waivers, or a gas tax to fund road repairs, or funding for your local library. Whatever your issue, ask the candidates about their plans to address your issues and concerns.  Call or email, call into radio shows, ask questions at forums or debates, or contact the campaign office.  You could ask the questions listed above, some of the sample ones listed below, or your own.  Just take some time now to jot down a few questions, so you have them ready when a candidate makes the rounds in your community, doorknocks your house, or calls to ask for your vote.

        • What would you do to make voting more accessible?
        • What will you do to make public transportation more accessible in our community?
        • What will your prioritie be if you are elected to office?
        • What is the first thing you would like to work on if elected?
        • Will you support ending waiver waiting lists so people can access the services they need?
        • What things can you do to help build a more inclusive community?
        • What will you do to help people with disabilities who want to work find training and jobs?

Finally, it takes a lot of people to run a campaign for public office, so if you find someone you like (and you like the answers they gave you), offer to volunteer for them.  Make calls, knock on doors, write postcards, put up yardsigns, march in parades, help with events, or stuff envelopes.  Candidates never say no to help - and they always remember the people who helped them get elected!

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The Other Side of the Ballot: Judge Retention

Iowa courts are considered among the best in the nation, largely because of the way we appoint our judges. In Iowa, we do not elect our judges. They are appointed by the Governor, who chooses from a list of names given to him by a panel of lawyers and citizens. 

Judges don’t campaign in Iowa, they don’t ask for campaign contributions, and they don’t buy TV ads. Iowa’s system is considered a model because it is not political, and you don’t need to worry whether a judge accepted campaign contributions from a lawyer appearing before him/her in court. 

However, every six years (eight years for Iowa Supreme Court Justices), judges are on the ballot in what is called a retention election. In a retention election, judges do not have opponents. Instead, voters decide whether or not to keep the judge in office. If a judge receives a majority of “yes” votes, the judge will continue to serve. If not, the judge will leave office and the Governor appoints a new judge.

It can be hard to decide what to do about judge retention. Most Iowans don't know much about the judges, and may skip this section of the ballot.  But that can leave the decision to keep or throw out a judge in the hands of a very few people.  There are many available resources to learn more about Iowa’s system for judicial retention, the judges appearing on your ballot, and links to information about each of those judges.

For information about Iowa’s system for judge retention: http://www.iowacourts.gov/For_the_Public/Court_Structure/About_Judges/Retention/

A list judges up for retention in 2014 can be found here: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/2014/general/judges.pdf  Judicial evaluations conducted by the Iowa Bar Association can be found here: http://www.iowabar.org/?page=JudicialEvaluations

 

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More Resources for Voters

Here are a few more resources to help you get ready to vote! More on ID Action's "Vote" website.

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Public Comment on Iowa's Non-Emergency Transportation Waiver

The Iowa Department of Human Services is taking public comments on their request to extend the waiver of non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services in the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.  The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is Iowa’s approach to the Affordable Care Act, providing health insurance to Iowans earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan currently does not cover non-emergency medical transportation services -which helps pay for transportation to doctor's appointments or specialty care visits.  Only those people considered "medically exempt" have access to this traditional Medicaid service.  All other Iowans covered by the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan must pay their own transportation costs.

The Federal government granted the state a waiver from paying for these services, but that waiver will run out soon.  The state is reapplying for the waiver but must ask for public comments before they can submit it.  We know that transportation is a big issue for many of our readers.   If you would like to comment on whether the state should or should not have to pay for non-emergency medical transportation, submit your comments by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, October 13, 2014.

  • Written comments may be addressed to Maggie Reilly, Department of Human Services, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, 100 Army Post Road, Des Moines, IA 50315.

  • Comments may also be sent to the attention of DHS, Iowa Health and Wellness Plan at DHSIMEHealthandWellnesPlan@dhs.state.ia.us.

You can read the full announcement of this comment period here and view the draft waiver amendment here. Access other Iowa Health and Wellness Plan documents at: http://dhs.iowa.gov/ime/about/iowa-health-and-wellness-plan.
 

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Medical Cannibidiol Committee Recommends Expansion

The Iowa Legislature voted this year to allow certain people with epilepsy to legally use marijuana to treat and prevent seizures.  However, the Legislature stopped short of allowing farmers to grow the marijuana plants that produce the oil used in this treatment (called Cannibidiol oil).  The bipartisan committee tasked with looking at the implementation of Iowa's very limited medical marijuana law met on September 11 and recommended expansion of the treatment for other medical conditions, but not for recreational use.

Lawmakers say this will be discussed in the Iowa Legislature in 2015, but many say it is unlikely to get very far. 

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