When democracy is not enough

For public workers, long-accepted notions of electoral fairness in America do not apply.

170118_capitol_170603-4x4The governance issues raised by the anti-bargaining bill that just passed the Legislature are many, some in the process, and some in the new legislation itself.

An excellent synopsis of the impact of the onerous recertification requirements for bargaining representation is in a letter to the editor published in the Mason City Globe Gazette.
In that letter, Jason Enke of Clear Lake outlines what elections would look like for the representatives supporting the bill if the same requirements applied to their re-election campaigns:
This is what it would look like for them:
  • Each year, any legislator seeking to continue representing their constituents must submit a petition signed by at least 30 percent of their constituents in order to be placed on a ballot.
  • If they complete a successful petition, an election will be scheduled with the legislator themselves paying all costs of the election upfront.
  • Any eligible voter who does not vote in the election will have his or her vote counted as a vote against the legislator.
  • If there are multiple choices on the ballot, a legislator must receive the vote of a majority of all eligible voters.
  • If none of the choices on the ballot receive a majority vote, there will not be a runoff election. Those constituents will not be represented.
  • Furthermore, if a legislator loses an election and constituents are unrepresented, another election for that district will not be considered until a period of at least two years has passed from the last election.

Currently, by contrast, it is incredibly easy to get on a ballot for the Iowa Legislature — only 50 signatures for a state House seat, and 100 signatures for a state Senate seat. All costs of a legislative election are paid by public funds. If people do not vote, they are not considered in the outcome. To elect takes only a plurality, not a majority, of those voting, not those eligible or even registered. Those who are interested enough to vote make the decision. Deadlines are set in the Iowa Code for filling vacancies in legislative seats to assure people are represented when decisions are made for them.

None of what was mandated for public workers in Iowa is good enough for the majority of state legislators who passed the anti-bargaining legislation that Governor Branstad signed into law last week. For workers who want team representation of their position when they negotiate compensation to provide services to fellow Iowans, long-accepted notions of electoral fairness in America do not apply.


owen-2013-57Posted by Mike Owen, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project


Author: iowapolicypoints

Iowa Policy Points is a blog of Common Good Iowa, a new organization built on a collective 50 years of experience of two respected Iowa organizations — the Child and Family Policy Center and the Iowa Policy Project. Learn more at www.commongoodiowa.org.

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