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Iowa one of many states that allows paid time off to vote

Iowans wondering if they can find time in their workday to vote on Tuesday are in luck: Iowa is one of many states that allows for paid time off to vote.

State law requires employers to give workers up to three hours of paid time off to vote on Election Day if work hours interfere with poll hours and as long as the employee asks for the time off before Election Day. That means Monday is the last day for employees to request the time off to vote.

While there is no federal law that mandates employers provide their employees time off to cast their ballots, 30 states have laws that allow employees time off to vote on Election Day, and Iowa is one of the more generous states, providing three hours of paid leave. Neighboring states Wisconsin and Illinois allow for time off, but it’s unpaid.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s website, employers are only required to allow time off to vote if the employee doesn’t have at least three consecutive hours available before or after work to go to the polls, which are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. So workers with 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules aren’t eligible for the paid time off, since there’s a four-hour window between 5 and 9 p.m. to vote. But an employee who works 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. would be entitled to paid time off, since there’s no three-hour window before or after work to vote.

Employees must request the time off to vote before Election Day, and employers can designate the time employees are allowed to take off, according to state law.

National media outlets and human resources experts report a spike in businesses giving workers paid time off to vote Nov. 6. A record 44 percent of American organizations are doing so this year, up 37 percent, according to Bloomberg News, citing reports form the Society for Human Resources Management.

Major employers in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor are following state law with regard to providing paid time off for employees wanting to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“We have had satellite voting on campus,” said Pam Tvrdy-Cleary. Rockwell Collins spokeswoman, adding, “We will leave it up to the discretion of managers” for those desiring time off on Tuesday.

UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids will follow state law, spokeswoman Sarah Corizzo said.

“We will have employees work with their managers to accommodate each individual on a case-by-case basis,” Corizzo said.

Alliant Energy will send a reminder to employees ahead of Election Day.

“We will be sending out a note to employees on Monday asking them to please vote if they have not already done so and have a discussion with their supervisor as soon as possible if they think their work schedule will make voting difficult,’” said spokesman Justin Foss. “We are trying to encourage flexibility with our employees.”

Iowa’s universities — per state law — also have policies supporting worker rights to cast a ballot.

“Any person entitled to vote in a public election is entitled to time off from work with pay on any public Election Day for a period not to exceed three hours in length,” according to UI policy. Affected employees have to apply to their supervisors for the time off.

Early voting continues Monday at county auditor offices. Voters can find their Election Day polling places on the Secretary of State’s website, sos.iowa.gov/pollingplace.

Reynolds, Hubbell ramp up spending in final days of campaigns

As the most expensive governor’s race in Iowa history nears its end, recent campaign disclosure filings show Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democratic opponent Fred Hubbell have ramped up raising and spending in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s Election Day.

Both sides reported a high contributions and expenses over the past two weeks, with a large portion of Hubbell’s campaign money coming from his own bankroll. Meanwhile, Reynolds has received most of her support from national Republican Party organizations.

Hubbell, a wealthy Des Moines business executive from a prominent Iowa family, has reeled in $2.5 million since mid-October. He dropped an additional $700,000 in his campaign fund to close out the month, bringing his overall self-financing tally to $7.1 million. He also picked up $500,000 from the Democratic Governors Association, and he got about $270,000 from organized labor interests.

Reynolds, a former lieutenant governor seeking election as the state’s chief executive for the first time, outraised her Democratic opponent during the latest filing period, drawing in a total $3.7 million. She received nearly $3 million of that from the Republican Governors Association, which supports candidates for governor around the country.

While fundraising has tilted in Reynolds’ favor as of late, the opponents are closer in terms of the money they’re putting up in a last-ditch effort to gain voter support. Hubbell spent about $3.4 million total to Reynolds’ $3.8 million, with most of the big expenses going toward television advertising.

The latest reports with the state’s campaign disclosure board cover the tail end of October after campaign messages from the candidates already have been on the airwaves for months. David Kochel, a Des Moines Republican operative, said the “sprint to the finish” is a common campaign approach, saying “everybody’s putting everything they’ve got on the field” to make gains in what’s been a highly competitive race compared to the previous two gubernatorial elections.

Norm Sterzenbach, a veteran operative for Iowa Democrats, said voters who may be undecided tend to make up their minds within the final two weeks of the race. In addition to trying to persuade voters to side with their candidate, he said, one of the more important aspects for Democrats is to motivate their base to get out and vote in a midterm election year, when turnout is typically lower.

Meanwhile, political handicappers have put Reynolds and Hubbell in a dead heat with a few days to go before the polls close. In September, a survey conducted by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom had Hubbell leading Reynolds by 2 percentage points, a figure that fell within the poll’s margin of error. And on Friday, a poll released by the University of Iowa showed Hubbell leading Reynolds by 3.6 percentage points as of mid-October, a figure that also fell within that poll’s margin of error.

Libertarian candidate Jake Porter, who has struggled to gain attention over his Democratic and Republican opponents, has raised and spent little for his bid and has gained little traction in the polls. He last reported a campaign account balance of about $820.

Time Machine: 100 years ago, a world war ended, an armistice signed

News of the end of the War to End All Wars spread like wildfire 100 years ago, on Nov. 7, 1918. Reports that the armistice had been signed sent millions of Americans into the streets to celebrate. Twenty-four hours later, the news proved false.

“Each hour brings added official evidence that the reports were false and that the American people were fooled,” a report in The Gazette stated. “Not only have official communications from France to the state department in Washington announced the reports as untrue, but the official statements of the French and British war offices show the fighting still going on.”

In fact, fighting was still going on as the German delegates arrived in France.

“The only point in the whole battle line where the firing seems to have stopped at all was at a point where it was necessary to let the German commissioners pass though,” the report went on.

THE END OF WAR

Official word of the armistice finally came in France on Nov. 11, 1918, at the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Sunrise in Cedar Rapids was greeted with the tolling of church bells. At 2:15 that morning, news arrived at The Evening Gazette, where editors immediately relayed the information to the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber sent word to the city’s factories, and factory whistles joined the bells, waking citizens to the long-awaited news.

A spontaneous parade began that grew progressively throughout the morning, adding car horns and band instruments to the shouts of joy all over the city.

At a few minutes after 4 a.m., The Gazette had an extra on the street announcing the armistice and that fighting would cease at 5 a.m. Iowa time. On its front page was this proclamation from Cedar Rapids Mayor J.F. Rall:

The Armistice has been signed.

Hostilities cease at this minute and Peace is in sight.

In order that Cedar Rapids may give expression of its great loyalty and Patriotism, let all our people join in the jubilation and business be suspended until 12 o’clock noon of this day.

Then let us remember our BOYS at home and abroad and prove our loyalty by raising our full quota for the United War Work before 6 o’clock tomorrow evening.

President Woodrow Wilson issued this formal proclamation at 10 a.m.: “My fellow countrymen: The armistice was signed this morning. Everything for which America fought has been accomplished. It will now be our fortunate duty to assist by example, by sober, friendly counsel and by material aid in the establishment of just democracy throughout the world.”

armistice day

A year later, Armistice Day was officially observed on Nov. 11, 1919, by proclamation of President Wilson. It was observed not only in Cedar Rapids, but also in Manchester, Mount Vernon, Anamosa, Ames and Iowa City, among other Iowa cities.

While the common practice that year was to dismiss students from classes, the president and deans at Iowa State College in Ames did not agree. Classes went on as usual.

Among those who protested at ISU were former servicemen, one of whom had lost a leg during the war. When he went to the dean’s office to protest, he was told, “Hurry up — we haven’t much time.”

Faced with a threatened strike, the dean finally agreed to a half day off. The former soldiers decided to take the whole day, and they were suspended.

no holiday

Although generally recognized as a significant day, Armistice Day was not observed as a federal holiday until 1938. That didn’t stop veterans’ organizations from promoting the day with dances like the one held at the City Auditorium in 1919 or the promotion of a national “Peace Day” by a national organization of jewelers.

In 1920, the American Legion and its affiliated Rainbow Society — victory medals with rainbow ribbons were awarded to any soldier who had served — pressured Washington to proclaim the day a national holiday.

That same year, a local celebration featured a parade led by the Legion’s Hanford Post, followed by veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, Company K of the Iowa National Guard and ROTC cadets. The parade started in front of the City Auditorium and wound through downtown Cedar Rapids, crossing the river twice and ending at Greene Square.

In 1921, Mayor Rall issued a proclamation asking businesses to close for at least half of the day, saying, “Armistice Day is everybody’s day.”

Veterans Day

Twenty years after Armistice Day and the end of the Great War, it was proclaimed a federal holiday in 1938.

In 1939, a crowd gathered on the plaza on May’s Island for a moment of silence at 11 a.m., the same hour the guns ceased firing on the Western front.

“The colors of the American Legion, Spanish War Veterans and Coe College ROTC unit were advanced, the Legion firing squad cracked out three volleys, a bugler sounded taps,” The Gazette reported. “While taps were being sounded, a flock of white pigeons circled around the plaza in the morning sunlight.”

The gathering, the paper reported, was “as much a prayer for peace as a tribute to the fallen” because war was again resuming in Europe.

President Roosevelt continued the custom of laying a wreath at the grave of the soldier “known but to God.” The United States was at peace, but Germany and the Allies were again at war.

The United States joined the second world war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Legislation passed in the 83rd U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1, 1954, changed the word Armistice to Veterans in order to honor American veterans of all wars.

• Comments: (319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

Amana commemorating Iowa County men who served in WWI

CEDAR RAPIDS — World War I sometimes is referred to as the “forgotten war,” but the Amana Heritage Society wants to make sure the role of the Iowa County community is not overlooked.

As part of that effort, the society is participating in the Walk of Honor commemorative brick program at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.

This year’s ceremony on Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day that led to the end of World War I. More than 100 bricks were purchased for dedication from all over the country and around the world.

The society, which collects, preserves and interprets the heritage of the Amana Colonies, bought a 16-inch brick, the largest available “because there are a lot of people to be represented by it,” said Jon Childers, the executive director of the society.

The brick is inscribed “In memory of the 50 Amana Boys and their Iowa County neighbors who served their country during WWI.”

It’s hoped that in addition to commemorating the war, the brick will serve to help heal the wounds from that time between Iowa County communities.

Childers explained that members of the Amana religion, which has its roots in the movement of Pietism and Mysticism that flourished in Germany in the early 1700s, left Germany because they were pacifists who had been forced into military service.

However, during WWI they were denied exemption from military service as pacifists. About 50 “Amana Boys” began shipping out for service beginning in July 1918. A number of them were protected as pacifists by the Amana Society, while others were swept up in the draft and served on the battlefronts of Europe.

“We were this ‘other’ in Germany,” he said, “but in America, you aspire to be best citizen.”

Despite the loyalty to America of members of the colony, which was established in Iowa in 1855, there was resentment over those men who didn’t serve in the military because that meant other Iowa County men were called on to fill the county quota, Childers said. The colony suffered anti-Amana sentiment through ongoing negative press, and an angry mob marched on South Amana, according to Amana history.

A generation later, 15 percent of the Amana population served in World War II, many in non-combat roles, Childers said.

After going through an establishment phase and a collection phase, Childers said the Heritage Society is trying to tell its story by being a part of the national narrative around significant events, such as WWI.

The Heritage Society is preparing for the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Childers said that in some ways, women in the colony had more rights and influence than other women.

Donations for the purchase of the brick will be accepted until Jan. 1. Interested parties may contact the Amana Heritage Museum in Amana at (319) 622-3567 or amanaheritage@southslope.net.

For more about the Amana Heritage Society, visit www.amanaheritage.org.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

Iowa early voting strong, even with fewer days

By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

Despite a new state law that shortens the time frame for early voting, Iowa is on pace to match if not exceed the number of early votes cast in 2014, the most recent midterm election.

With roughly the same number of early votes being cast — but 11 fewer days in which to handle the demand — some county election officials across the state say the compressed time frame has caused some stress. Others, however, say the impact to their staffs has been negligible.

One piece of the controversial elections bill passed in 2017 by the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature and signed into law by then-GOP Gov. Terry Branstad was a provision that reduced the state’s early voting period from 40 to 29 days.

The 2018 midterm election this Tuesday is the first general election since that law was passed. Despite the fewer days in which to cast an early vote, either by absentee ballot or in person at an auditor’s office or satellite locations, early votes are coming in at roughly the same levels as they did in 2014.

As of Friday, the latest update, county auditors had received a total of 447,454 absentee ballots, according to the Iowa Secretary of State.

“It’s being felt in my office for sure,” said Eric Van Lancker, auditor and elections commissioner for Clinton County in Eastern Iowa. “As I kind of predicted would happen, what we’re seeing here in Clinton County is we’re dealing with the same amount of absentee voters, just in a shorter amount of time.”

Van Lancker said in-person early voting has remained strong, so his office is seeing roughly 100 in-person voters daily, an increase of about 20 a day over 2014.

“In the office, we’ve definitely felt it, working the counter with voters,” he said. “It’s added stress on the staff.”

Van Lancker said he did not hire additional staff for this year’s elections, but will consider doing so in 2020 for the presidential election, when early voting is expected to be even busier.

Travis Weipert, the Johnson County Auditor and president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, said his staff also is feeling the effect of more votes in a shorter time frame.

Johnson County voters already have surpassed early voter turnout in the state’s last midterm election.

“That’s why I ask people to be patient with our poll workers. We’re trying to get people through as quickly as possible,” Weipert said.

The county had received 26,349 ballots as of Friday — about 66 percent of them from registered Democrats and about 15 percent from registered Republicans.

In Benton County, Auditor Hayley Rippel said the shorter time frame has made for a busier election season there.

“We seemed to have been slammed in that shorter time frame with those outgoing ballot requests by mail,” she said.

Rippel said her office has seen more absentee ballots returned than in the 2014 midterm.

As of Friday, the county had taken 2,869 early ballots — about 33 percent from registered Democrats and about 40 percent from registered Republicans

Other county auditors said they have been able to spread the additional workload; some hired additional staff in anticipation of the condensed schedule’s impact.

“We hired additional staff that we normally would have for a midterm election,” said Jamie Fitzgerald, auditor for Polk County, the state’s most populous. “That’s something we planned for early on.”

But not all counties are seeing an increase in early voting. Auditors in Scott and Black Hawk counties, for example, said early voting numbers are projected to be down this time.

Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz said a lack of contested Statehouse races there may be part of the reason.

Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder said he thinks the tightened time frame may be contributing to the lower early voting numbers.

“We’re looking like we probably won’t reach the same level that we had four years ago. We’re going to fall short of that,” he said. “I can’t do anything but give you my best guess, but it would appear to me that the shortened window had something to do with it.”

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said the true impact of the shortened early voting period will not be known until after the election.

Pate, a Republican, initiated the legislation that ultimately contained the shortened period, but that element was not his recommendation; it was added later by Republican state legislators.

“I’m not sure we have an answer yet on that. We’re going to have to wait and give it some time to work itself through,” Pate said.

Polk County’s Fitzgerald said the shortened time frame has forced campaigns to rework their voting strategies.

Campaigns like to secure early votes — whether by mail or in-person — because it locks in the vote without having to contend with Election Day uncertainties. Securing early votes has played an increasing role in campaign strategy over the past decade.

By Friday, Iowa Democrats in 2018 already have surpassed their 2014 early vote totals an still had three more days. Democrats have held more than 50 early voting events during the period, a state party spokeswoman said.

“Iowa Democrats have put in the work. We’ve known from the start that this election was going to be an uphill climb, so we’ve had our noses to the grindstone for the past two years to produce results like this: more Democrats energized for the midterms than ever before,” Iowa Democratic Party state chairman Troy Price said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of our campaigns and volunteers for the unprecedented effort they have put in to make sure that Iowans are heard at the ballot box this year, and I cannot wait to see the results of that work this coming Tuesday.”

Iowa Republicans are roughly on pace to post a similar early vote total to four years ago.

“Iowa Democrats are fired up to do one thing and one thing only: regain power in Des Moines and in Washington. If that happens, they will raise taxes and tear down the progress we have seen in Iowa and across the country,” Republican Party of Iowa state chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement. “Because of the stakes, we’re not taking any votes for granted. If Republicans don’t turn out, we could lose everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish over the last two years.”

Elections officials and political scientists say early voting numbers cannot predict the outcome, but can help indicate voter interest.

“I think it tells us that the interest is high, potentially higher than it was in 2014,” said Christopher Larimer, a political-science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. “And I think it tells us that turnout potentially could be up overall compared to the last midterm election. Beyond that, it’s hard to know.”

Mitchell Schmidt of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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