Elections in Iowa

October 14, 2022 | Elections in Iowa Hailey Allen, Business Record,

A cornerstone of American democracy has always been our right to vote. And as a marker of our progress as a nation, that right has been further and further extended, once a privilege only for wealthy landowners, now a staple in most citizens' lives. With Iowa elections approaching, businesses are hoping to assist employees in understanding the importance of their right to vote and making their voices heard.

One such company is Cargill, a privately held global food corporation based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, with several offices, production plants and agricultural suppliers throughout Iowa.

Katie Hall is the director of state government relations at Cargill. Her job is to connect with local and state stakeholders and decision-makers to communicate challenges and opportunities that Cargill faces, while working to identify solutions for continued growth and opportunities to make a difference in the rural communities that surround Cargill facilities.

Under Hall’s direction, Cargill hosted state Cargill facility managers and key decision-makers to listen to and talk with leaders including Iowa legislators, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Deputy Secretary Julie Kenney and members of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff.

Initiatives like this help connect individuals more directly with the people they are voting for, and allow people to get direct information about policies important to them.

“The Legislature has large Republican majorities, but the topics we’re talking about are not partisan issues. We’re talking about economic growth, continuing to invest in Iowa, simplifying tax code for employees, things like that,” said Hall.

She added that it’s important to address all sides of a question when it comes to politics, to avoid confirmation bias. Seeking answers from different legislators can help individuals better identify exactly what they want to support.

“The people that are engaged and are connecting are the ones who help shape the future. When we hesitate to create relationships with legislators, we’re taking a back seat to making an impact,” Hall said.

Hall advises folks to “look beyond the party and understand what that person actually represents.” Reach out, ask them questions, and find out how they will support your community, she added.

Going a step further than individual companies, business associations and industry groups also have an interest in providing relevant information to their members so they understand policies that may affect their businesses. ABI is one such example.

Brad Hartkopf is the director of public policy for ABI. He is one of two primary lobbyists at the Capitol who lobby on behalf of ABI’s more than 1,500 member companies, working to pass policies that strengthen the Iowa business climate.

“Especially around election time, in the months leading up to it, we communicate to our members about supporting candidates who have a progrowth agenda at the top of their campaign priorities. We also have voting records for incumbent lawmakers, which is listed on our IA Votes website,” so that voters across the state can see how their lawmakers have voted on issues that matter to the association, Hartkopf said.

The hope is that in keeping businesses and their employees informed on important matters related to the Iowa business community being discussed by legislators, individuals will be better informed to vote in the best interests of themselves and their company values. However, this can’t be accomplished if the employees themselves aren’t getting to the polls.

The right to vote “is one of the most important functions we have in society here in America. I always encourage people to look at the policies of candidates, find somebody you want to support, and get out there and cast your ballot. Make your voice heard,” said Hartkopf.

“Every vote matters. We’ve seen close races. It can make a big difference on the public policies that are approved and how that affects the business climate, for Iowa and the country,” he said.

ABI has five public policy committees divided into different subject areas: Employment and workforce, environment, tax, economic growth, and workplace and product safety. These committees track proposed bills and regulations related to these areas on behalf of the business sector, “making sure they line up with the statutes that are approved so that businesses can function. So that they have opportunities to expand in Iowa instead of going somewhere else,” said Hartkopf.

As a lobbyist, he said he’s “always learning at the Capitol.” He believes that’s a principle everyone should keep in mind. “That’s how I try to approach my job and to become a better asset for my employer, by continuing to learn and educate myself. And swallowing my pride when necessary to say, ‘You know what, I don’t have all the answers. Will you teach me, will you help me?’”

ABI partners with the Business Industry Political Action Committee, based in Washington, D.C., to encourage civic participation among ABI members. BIPAC has nonpartisan resources to help employer groups get employees engaged. As a partner with BIPAC, ABI participates in Employee Voter Registration Week, which is usually held around the last week of September.

Kim Durcho, vice president of external affairs for BIPAC, said of the voter registration initiative, “It’s good timing because it gets you ahead of all the voter registration deadlines across the country, which are typically the second week of October to late October.” Employee Voter Registration Week was developed by BIPAC back in 2014 to help companies, associations, chambers and other member organizations push out useful, nonpartisan information and resources in a timely manner for individuals in those groups.

“It’s important for employees to understand how different issues can impact them. It’s not about swaying anyone, it’s just making sure that they do have that information and they have a reliable source to find it at,” said Durcho.

There can be a lot of noise in this area to sort through. Sometimes opinions get mistaken for facts, or vice versa. Part of what Durcho and BIPAC seek to do is cut through that noise and make good information available as a resource for businesses.

“The employer really is a trusted source, especially when they’re pulling from other trusted sources. … [At BIPAC] we are checking in with the people who are running these election systems in each state to make sure that what we’re providing is as accurate as humanly possible,” Durcho said.

BIPAC also provides things like voter education graphics and nonpartisan messaging to help companies communicate effectively with employees about elections and political matters, without alienating employees who may fall on opposite voting spectrums.

“That’s part of our democracy, right? It’s to be able to have these conversations and know I’m not always going to align on every issue, but we can’t stop having the conversation,” Durcho said.