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2018 Issue #9

Issue 9, September 06, 2018

Articles in This Issue:

ELECTION FOCUS: Secretary of State

Labor Day is the unofficial start of the campaign season, so we thought it would be helpful to turn our focus in this issue on a race that has a big impact on Iowans with Disabilities.

Iowa's Secretary of State is tasked with keeping official state records, registering business documents, and recording the official acts (like cataloging laws signed by the Governor).  But one of the most important duties of the Secretary of State is "commissioner of elections."  That means the Secretary of State is in charge of Iowa's elections, including maintaining election results.  The Secretary of State is charged with protecting our election systems, and making sure our elections are secure, fair, and accessible to all eligible voters.

National news has focused on Russian hacking of other states' voting systems, and the Supreme Court of Iowa is taking a hard look at Iowa's new voter ID law.  There is no shortage of challenges (and controversy) in this Secretary of State race, but we wanted to give the candidates a chance to let our readers learn a bit more about them, and why they are running.

In this issue you will find information about the candidates, and their responses to two questions.  We included all major party candidates in this - Republican, Democrat, Libertarian - and asked that the answers be limited to 500 words.  We hope that this helps you get to know the people running for this very important office, and we hope that you follow-up with their campaigns to find out more! 

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Deidre DeJear has dedicated her career to community and small business development. In 2008, DeJear began her own small business, Caleo Enterprises, which gives entrepreneurs affordable marketing tools and business strategies. DeJear also created the Financial Capability Network, a collaborative that targets low to moderate income individuals and families. Over the last 5 years, the program provided nearly 100,000 Iowans access to financial management, knowledge and skills. This included training to more than 300 businesses and nonprofits.

Beyond her work as a business owner, DeJear co-founded Back 2 School Iowa as a Drake student in 2005, a non-profit dedicated to collaborating with communities and corporations in order to provide resources to inspire youth in continuing in their education and build their future careers. This small organization impacts more than 3,000 Central Iowans each year.

DeJear's first introduction to campaigns was through her grandmother, who became County Elections Commissioner in Mississippi in the mid-nineties. It was from that early experience, that she learned the value in engaging the community through voting.   

Since that time, she has volunteered her time with non-profits and political campaigns to connect with new and existing voters. In 2012, DeJear worked statewide to re-elect President Barack Obama. After 2012, Deidre went on to manage two successful Des Moines School Board campaigns.  DeJear and her husband Marvin reside in Des Moines, with their two dogs, Macy and Maurice.

For more information or to get involved in the DeJear campaign, go to www.DeJearforIowa.com or hello@dejearforiowa.com.

As Secretary of State, what would you do to improve voter turnout among Iowans with disabilities, and what would you do to make sure Iowa’s electoral process and polling places are accessible to Iowans of all abilities? 

All voters deserve equal access to the ballot box, and that means education efforts must happen before voting begins. As Secretary of State I will work with local election officials to ensure that all Iowans with disabilities are included in every aspect of our elections. We can do this by providing education materials on how, where, and when to vote to service providers, community leaders, and organizations already working in the disability community. With the seemingly constant changes in our voting laws, this education is critical.

Equally important is including those with disabilities in the discussion. The Secretary of State and auditors needs to know and understand the real needs of this community, and that happens when we invite partners to the table.  

On a basic level, we also need to ensure that every polling location is ADA compliant and accessible to all Iowans casting a ballot. The process of voting by absentee ballot must remain simple, too, so those who are not mobile have their opportunity to participate in every election.

Currently, thirteen states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration policies.  Would you support automatic voter registration?

I am completely in support of automatic voter registration. Right now, because our system at the DOT only allows voters opt-in, we miss too many eligible voters who don’t have registration on their mind when they are updating their license. Automatic voter registration will modernize our voter rolls, providing the secretary of state and auditors with the most complete and up-to-date information on who are voters are and how to contact them.

Just think what it would mean if every eligible citizen was automatically registered. No more showing up to the polls only to find that you’ve been wrongly removed. No need for forms to reregister when you move. This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s a commonsense issue. But I’m ready to use all of the administrative powers at my disposal to modernize Iowa’s voter registration system.


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Paul Pate is currently serving his second term as Iowa’s Secretary of State. Pate followed through on his 2014 campaign promises by making it easier for overseas military members to vote, instituting online voter registration, implementing the Safe at Home program for survivors of violence, and bringing Voter ID to Iowa.  He has succeeded in making it easy to vote, but hard to cheat in Iowa’s elections.

A former State Senator, Mayor of Cedar Rapids, and President of the Iowa League of Cities, he was unanimously voted President-Elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State by his colleagues at their annual summer conference.  Pate also serves on the Executive Board of the Council of State Governments (CSG), and was recognized by CSG with the prestigious Henry Toll Fellowship, a top honor of state elected leaders.

 Paul was born and raised in Iowa and is from Linn County.  He and his wife, Jane, are the proud parents of three, and grandparents of five.

For more information or to get involved in the Pate campaign, go to www.pateforiowa.com or Info@PateForIowa.com.

As Secretary of State, what would you do to improve voter turnout among Iowans with disabilities, and what would you do to make sure Iowa’s electoral process and polling places are accessible to Iowans of all abilities? 

The Secretary of State's office launched an unprecedented effort to help military veterans and Iowans with disabilities vote.  Outreach included:

  • Producing nine educational videos.
  • Launching of a social media program.
  • New website section detailing options available for voting with disabilities like curbside voting and voting with assistance.
  • Printed brochures with pertinent information about voting resources available to the disabled.  
  • Hired a voter outreach coordinator who met with organizations across the state that work with Iowans with disabilities to help promote the voting resources available to them. 
  • Conducted statewide training workshops and educational sessions and implemented new administrative rules.  
  • Produced public service announcements that ran on TV and radio encouraging Iowans with disabilities to vote.
The Secretary of State's Office reached out to Iowans all over the state and their efforts received national recognition from the National Secretaries of State runner up 2017 IDEAS Award.  We also partnered with the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, Joining Community Forces, Operation Engage America and other agencies which helped achieve the goal to make sure Iowans with disabilities, and those who serve them, are aware of the resources available to help them participate in elections.

One of my top priorities is for every eligible Iowan to participate in the state's elections. That effort requires education and encouragement. An estimated 300,000 Iowans of voting age have some type of disability and studies show that people with disabilities are among the least likely to vote. I made it a goal to help those Iowans make their voices heard by participating in the election process.

Currently, thirteen states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration policies.  Would you support automatic voter registration?

Iowa achieved a record high of active registered voters January 3, 2017 of 2,045,864.  This number is the highest in Iowa history.  Iowa remains one of the top six states in the country for voter participation and voter registration.  With approximately 93% of eligible Iowans registered to vote, Iowa offers online voter registration, same day voter registration as well as multiple opportunities and places to register to vote.  My goal is for all Iowans to be involved in our elections and automatic voter registration is an option worth exploring.  

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Jules Ofenbakh has an extensive background in business and a passion for helping small business owners. Ofenbakh graduated from Kean University (New Jersey) in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. She received her Juris Doctorate and Master in Business Administration from Drake University.

While in law school, she was a member of the Drake Law School Intellectual Property Moot Court Team and was a regional semi-finalist in Giles Sutherland Rich Moot Court Competition. Ofenbakh also worked as a law clerk for the Department of Natural Resources and the Principal Financial Group.

Prior to law school, Ofenbakh worked in various companies as a system administrator specializing in networking and security, as well as a project manager.

Since 2002, Ofenbakh has served as founder and business management consultant for Home Care With Love, Inc. While in this capacity she has submitted business plans, attained appropriate forms and certificates, and written over 150 business policies to gain accreditation in accordance with the state and federal regulations. Currently she serves as an active part of the board of directors and advises on various business issues.   She is a Russian immigrant and lives in West Des Moines.

For more information or to get involved in the Ofenbakh campaign, go to julesofenbakh.org or (515) 978-1735.

As Secretary of State, what would you do to improve voter turnout among Iowans with disabilities, and what would you do to make sure Iowa’s electoral process and polling places are accessible to Iowans of all abilities? 

The Ofenbakh campaign did not submit answers to this question.

Currently, thirteen states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration policies.  Would you support automatic voter registration?

The Ofenbakh campaign did not submit answers to this question. 

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The 2018 election is less than one month away.  

  • If you don't know if you are registered to vote - you check online here
  • Watch our informative video on Iowa's new voter ID law here
  • Find out about your early voting options by contacting your county auditor - click here to find yours.

To find out more about the Congressional candidates:

You can also find contact information and others on the ballot here.   You can also find out which district # you live in for Congress, Iowa House, and Iowa Senate here.  If you get infoNET by mail, it's also listed near your mailing address.

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If you are planning to go to ID Action's annual Make Your Mark! self-advocacy conference at Honey Creek Resort on September 27-28, stop by and visit us at the infoNETbooth!  

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