Editorial: Iowans agree on legislative goals


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According to a recent poll conducted by the Des Moines Register, Iowans have surprisingly clear attitudes on many of the issues that could be weighed by the Iowa Legislature this year, indicating that partisan polarization may have given way to consensus-building.

Iowans support expanding universal preschool to 4-year-olds and incentivizing businesses to increase the reach of high-speed broadband connections across rural Iowa by roughly a 3-1 margin, according to the poll, which was conducted from Feb. 23-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

The public broadly supports stricter laws against texting while driving and the legalization of consumer fireworks as well.

In an equally strong showing of public consensus, the poll found that 71 percent of respondents placed a greater priority on ensuring the opportunity to vote, while only 25 percent believed making sure no person ineligible to vote can cast a ballot was more important.

As evidenced by legislative battles on voter ID in several states, including Iowa, the party members in Congress tend to vote on party lines, namely Republicans for voter ID and Democrats against. But the results of the poll offer a surprising shift away from these conventional party lines. Self-identified Republican respondents mostly believe ensuring the opportunity to vote is more important (63 percent), with only 33 percent prioritizing that no one “slips through the cracks” in voting fraud.

While it’s true that believing ballot access is important is not the same as being against voter-ID laws, the poll results are nonetheless indicative of a change in popular thinking about the issue of voter fraud, indicating that a public agreement may be forming in opposition to strict ID laws.

The public has also come out strongly against legalizing Internet gambling and decriminalizing marijuana, though roughly 60 percent of Iowans support legalizing medical marijuana.

Obviously, these strong public opinions should not be viewed as infallible. Two-thirds of Iowans oppose telemedicine abortion, an issue that is poorly understood and has an undeniably ominous name. But in reality, telemedicine is a promising means of extending access to legal, safe abortions into rural areas that may otherwise be prohibitively far from a reproductive-health clinic that should remain legal in Iowa.

Though they may not always align with our views, the wishes of the public in Iowa are undeniably clear, and yet the fate of many of these bills is doubtful. The debate surrounding medical marijuana, for example, is dead, despite clear public support for the policy. The fate of other policies favored by Iowans — raising the minimum wage, for example, which Iowans support by a 2-1 margin — is murky.

The poll’s findings are cause for optimism on one hand — there seems to be a degree of statewide consensus on these issues that seems to transcend pure partisanship — but pessimism about the responsiveness of government on the other. We understand the need for a deliberative legislature not beholden to the whims of the public, but our legislators cannot be entirely isolated from public opinion, either.

The Legislature should act upon the public consensus, particularly on the minimum wage, stricter laws to prevent texting and driving, universal free preschool, and, of course, the legalization of fireworks.

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