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2017 ISSUE #10

Issue 10, October 20, 2017

Articles in This Issue:


CITY ELECTIONS FAST APPROACHING

When you think elections, you probably think about voting for President or Governor.  But did you know that the most important elections are just around the corner?  We're talking about local elections, when you vote for your Mayor and City Council.  

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, in the last four city elections, the voter turnout average was 21.3%.  So only 1 in every 5 registered Iowa voters actually voted in a city election.  Compare that to the General Election last year, when 71% of registered Iowa voters turned out to vote for President.  Iowa was the 5th highest state in voter turnout in 2016 - but most of those same voters will decide to stay home on November 7, 2017, when our state's citizens have a chance to pick their city councils and mayors.  

It's a shame too, because our city officials make decisions that are closer to our front porches than Washington, DC.  Your city councils and mayors are responsible for local trails, parks, recreational programs, libraries, fire service, police, roads, crosswalks and sidewalks, public transportation, utilities (like water, garbage collection, recycling), and zoning (what you can build, and where). City officials manage a lot of different things, and their decisions have a direct impact on your daily life.

So think about your city.  What things are important to you?  Talk to the people running for Mayor and City Council in your city. Ask them questions. Tell them your vision for the city.  But most importantly, get out and vote on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

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ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL, SO GET OUT AND VOTE

By Paula Dierenfeld, Mayor, City of Johnston

Elections are important.  And perhaps the most important elections are those that are closest to us, our city elections.  In just a few short weeks, we will have the opportunity to vote for individuals that will serve as our city leaders, our mayors and city council members. Sadly, too many of us don’t take the time or make the effort to vote in city elections.

Turnout in city elections is often less than 5% of the eligible voters.  That means, in a community like Johnston with a population of 20,000, only 400 people turnout to vote.  This small handful of self-selected individuals decide who will make the important decisions that impact the daily lives of everyone in our communities for years to come.

It doesn’t need to be that way and it shouldn’t be.  We all have a right to vote.  And we all have an equal say in who’s elected.  Your vote is your voice.  As citizens, we have a responsibility to use our vote in a way that best serves us and the communities in which we live.  That means becoming an informed citizen, learning about the candidates, and voting on Election Day.

There’s still time to make sure you are prepared to vote in the upcoming city elections. What should you do?

  1. Make sure you are registered to vote.  You can’t vote unless you’re registered.  Getting registered is easy to do.  You can get a voter registration form online from the Secretary of State’s website at sos.iowa.gov.  Download the form, fill it out and mail it to your county auditor’s office.  Or even easier, you can register online on the Secretary of State’s website but you need an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID to do so.  
     
  2. If you can’t get to the polls on Election Day, you can vote by absentee ballot.  Any registered voter can vote by absentee – you don’t need a reason.  You can vote absentee right now at your local county auditor’s office.  Or you can vote absentee by mail.  You can get an absentee ballot request form by calling your county auditor or by downloading a form from your county auditor’s website. Click here for county auditor contact information.
     
  3. Get to know the candidates.  Attend public forums to hear the candidates speak on the issues.  Ask the candidates questions when you see them on the street or at the grocery store.  Call or email them your suggestions and concerns.
     
  4. Vote and encourage your family members and neighbors to vote.  It’s easy to vote in Iowa, even if you have a disability.  Each polling place has voting machines that allow persons with disabilities to vote unassisted.  If you would like assistance, you can ask a precinct election official for help.  If you have difficulty getting into the polling place, a ballot can be brought to your car.

Many city elections have been decided by just one vote.  Your vote does count.  You have a right and responsibility to vote for the people who will be making important decisions for you every day.  Make sure your voice is heard by voting in the city elections on Tuesday, November 7. 

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Mayor Dierenfeld was first elected in 2008.  She is an attorney and partner at the Nyemaster Goode law firm in Des Moines.  Before that, she was a Commissioner on the Iowa Utilities Board (appointed by Gov. Branstad) and served on the staffs of both Gov. Branstad and US Senator Charles Grassley.

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CITY ELECTION FAQs

We know that there have been changes in Iowa's voting laws this last year, and we want to make sure everyone knows their rights (and responsibilities) when voting in the upcoming city elections.  Here are a few "Frequently Asked Questions" to get you thinking about voting.
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Do I need to register to vote?  

Yes.  In order to vote, you must be registered.  You can register to vote online, or download a voter registration form at sos.iowa.gov/elections/VoterInformation/VoterRegistration.html.  You can also go to your county auditor's office and fill out a form there.  A list of county auditors can be found at: sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html.

Do I need to register before every election?

No, once you are registered to vote, you do not have to re-register unless you've moved or changed your name. 

Is there an easy way to find out if I'm registered to vote, and if I'm registered at my current address?

Yes.  You can check to see if you are registered to vote, and registered at the correct address, on the Secretary of State's website: sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation/voterregistration.html.  

You can also call your county auditor to check.  Your county auditor will be listed in the government pages of your phone book (which are usually blue), or you can find a list online at sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html

Is there a deadline for registration?

Yes.  If you are not yet registered to vote, you have until Friday, October 27, 2017 to pre-register to vote.  Pre-registering means your name will be listed in the voter lists, and you will not have to fill out extra paperwork or show proof that you should be able to vote.  It's a good idea to pre-register to vote.

Does that mean I can't vote if I miss the pre-registration deadline?

No! Iowa voters may register and vote on Election Day. To do so, you first must go to the correct polling place for your current address on Election Day. If you are not sure where to go, click here to find your polling place.  

At the polling place, you must prove both who you are and where you live. The best way to do this is with a valid Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID with your current address printed on it.  If you do not have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID, you may use a photo ID that is current and valid, as long as it includes an expiration date (or states that the card does not expire). The following are acceptable IDs:

    • 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 contain your current address, you may use another document to prove where you live if it contains your name and current address. The following are acceptable proofs of residence:

    • Residential lease
    • Utility bill (including a cell phone bill)
    • Bank statement
    • Paycheck
    • Government check or other government document

Finally, if you cannot prove who you are and where you live with the documents listed above, a registered voter from your precinct may attest for you. Both you and the attester will be required to sign an oath swearing the statements being made are true. Falsely attesting or being attested for is registration fraud, which is a class “D” felony punishable by a fine of up to $7,500 and up to 5 years in prison. 

Do I need to show an ID to vote?

Registered voters will not have to show an ID to vote until January 1, 2018.  Your election officials may ask you for an ID, or let you know that you will be required to show an ID in the future, but you will not be required to show an ID for the city elections on November 7.  

How do I find out who is on the ballot?

Most auditors will have sample ballots on their websites.  Auditors are also required to print sample ballots in the county's main newspaper sometime in the three weeks leading up to the election.  

If you want to find out more about the candidates, attend a local candidate forum or do a simple google search to find out who is on the ballot.  If you still aren't sure where to look, go to your local public library and ask a librarian.  After all, libraries are funded by your cities!

I may need accommodation to vote.  Is that okay?

Absolutely!  Iowans are fortunate to have a very accessible system, and election officials will find a way to make sure you are able to exercise your right to vote without interference.  The Secretary of State's office has listed the many ways you can vote here: sos.iowa.gov/disabilities.html.  You can also watch a video message for voters with disabilities at: https://vimeo.com/186304867.  

If you have any other voting-related questions, you can always contact ID Action. Voter participation is important to us, and a key part of the ID Action mission.  Just call ID Action at 866-432-2846. 

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MANAGED CARE CHANGES MAY IMPACT YOU

More changes are coming to managed care.  Iowans who receive services paid by the ID waiver will be assigned a level based on their functional assessment (Supports Intensity Scale).  Their level, or tier, will determine how much their providers will be paid, beginnning December 1, 2017. 

The new tiered rate system will affect payment for the following HCBS/ID Waiver services: Daily Supported Community Living (SCL); Residential Based Supported Community Living (RBSCL); and full-day Adult Day and Day Habilitation.

Funding for transportation services will now be added to the daily SCL rate, except for non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services.  Beginning December 1, daily SCL providers will be responsible for providing, contracting, and/or coordinating transportation services.

This is the information we have available at this time.  While any changes to the system may be cause for concern, Iowa Medicaid plans to get information out soon.  Watch the website for more information as it becomes available (www.infonetiowa.org). 

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NEW LONG TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN NAMED

The Iowa Department on Aging has named Cindy Pederson as the new State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.  Pederson has been acting Ombudsman since Deanna Clingan-Fischer left for a job at Iowa State University.  Pederson was first hired by the Office in 2014 as a Discharge Specialist.  Since that time, she's specialized in elder rights and landlord-tenant law.

The Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen advocate for the 54,000 Iowans living in nursing facilities, assisted living programs, long-term care facilities, and elder group homes.  

“Cindy brings a solid background of legal expertise and advocacy experience to this position and is very knowledgeable of the challenges and opportunities that surround today’s long-term living environment,” said Iowa Department on Aging Director Linda Miller. “She is uniquely qualified to assist residents, families and staff members assess complex issues and identify practical solutions, and she will be an asset to every individual who lives in one of Iowa’s long-term care facilities.” 

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NEW GUIDE MAKES NAVIGATING MANAGED CARE WATERS EASIER

The state's Managed Care Ombudsman Program has released a new resource for Medicaid members, How to Be Your Own Best Advocate: A Guide on How to Navigate Managed Care in Iowa.  

Health insurance can be complicated, and advocating for yourself can be scary. Iowa's Long Term Care Ombudsman developed this Guide to help Iowans navigate the complex and ever-changing world of managed care.  It's written with all abilities in mind, with Disability Rights Iowa (DRI) and Iowans with Disabilities in Action (ID Action) helping with the development.  

The Guide is available online here or you can also request one be mailed to you by contacting ID Action or the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman:

Managed Care Ombudsman Program
510 E 12th St., Ste. 2
Des Moines, IA 50319
(866) 236-1430

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2018 BUDGET OUTLOOK

It's been a tough year.  Legislators came back into session in January and had to immediately trim $88 million from the budget.  In March, they realized they needed to make deeper cuts with little time left in the budget year, so they had to transfer $131 million from the state's savings account to balance the budget.  In the end, the budget was still $13 million short, so the Governor had to transfer more money.  That's a total cut in the 2017 budget year of $232 million. 

Lawmakers had hoped the worst was behind them, but the state's Revenue Estimating Conference met this week, and found more cuts might be needed to get through this year.  While the current year budget spends about $1 million less than last year, experts say Iowa legislators will probably need to find another $35 million in cuts in order to avoid overspending.  

The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet again in December to set the official estimate that will be used by the Governor and Legislature in next year's budgeting.  Cross your fingers for some holiday cheer.

 
 

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