The ACLU of Iowa has created a civil liberties report card for Iowa legislators for the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, comparing voting records on 17 key civil liberties bills.

June 3, 2012

The ACLU of Iowa’s 2011–2012 Civil Liberties Report Card is based on key civil liberties votes in the 84th Iowa General Assembly, which includes both the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. The report card is based on votes on various civil liberties, including free speech, reproductive freedom, LGBT rights, open government, criminal justice reform and sentencing, immigrants’ rights, due process, government surveillance, racial justice, and voting rights.

If an Iowa legislator voted with the ACLU 90 percent of the time or better, that person received an A; 80 percent or better received a B, and so on. If a senator voted less than 60 percent of the time with the ACLU, he or she received an F.

Best Grades, Worst Grades

Only one legislator received an A+ and one other received an A. Unlike in previous years, no legislator received a zero. This year, the lowest score in the Senate was 33 percent and the lowest score in the House was 23 percent.

Scores on civil liberties voting did not neatly follow party lines. A review of scores reveals that the civil liberties issues that the ACLU of Iowa identified, on the whole, cut across the political spectrum much more than in the past.

ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Ben Stone said the report card is an important way of looking at how legislators vote. "Legislators are accountable to the people of Iowa for their records on constitutional principles and civil liberties. As we approach the 2012 elections this fall, we hope this guide will provide the electorate with the facts on how their legislators stood on the civil liberties issues that are important to them."

The ACLU of Iowa is a non-partisan organization with no affiliation to political parties. "We have strived to present an accurate, fair, and unbiased presentation of the record,"  Stone said.

Civil Liberties Report Card Highlights

  • Only two legislators received an A or A+. Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines serving in the Iowa House of Representatives, received an A+, voting with the ACLU 100 percent of the time. Representative Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque serving in the House of Representatives, received an A, voting for civil liberties 94 percent of the time. "The voting record for these two state Representatives demonstrates profound political courage and an all-too-rare dedication to the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions and civil rights," said Stone.
  • The lowest score went to Representative Mark Brandenburg, a Republican from Council Bluffs, who scored just 23 percent on key civil liberties votes. The next-lowest vote was 25 percent, shared by four other Iowa House members: Representative Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia), Representative Mary Ann Hanusa (R-Council Bluffs), Representative Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant), and Representative Renee Schulte (R-Cedar Rapids).
  • Of the 100 members of the Iowa House of Representatives, just 20 received a B-, B, or B+. Eleven others received a C-, C, or C+, with the remaining members receiving Ds and Fs.
  • In the 50-member Iowa Senate, no one scored an A- or higher, and only four state senators received a B or B+ . They are: Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), Senator Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines), Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames), and Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids). Seven received Cs and the remainder received Ds and Fs.
  • Overall, the Senate as a whole had a higher average score (63 percent) than the House (52 percent). However, it is important to keep in mind that the Senate voted on different civil liberties bills than the House in some cases.

To view the ACLU of Iowa Civil Liberties Report Card in its entirety, click here.