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It’s been 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Author and investigative journalist Ari Berman says the legislation was supposed to serve as an enforcement mechanism for the 15th Amendment.

“We passed prohibition on racial discrimination on voting, but we didn’t enforce it. The Voting Rights Act first abolished literacy tests and poll taxes in states they had been used most frequently. Then it sent federal officials to the south to register voters. In places like Selma, only 2% of people were registered to vote.”

Flickr / Daniel Morrison

As Iowa’s Secretary of State works to implement online voter registration, the Iowa legislature weighs in.

A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate is considering a bill that allows voters to provide their birth date and a unique identifying number, like the last four digits of a Social Security number, to register to vote online. Voters would then verify their identity with an electronic signature. 

League of Women Voters of California / Flickr

Up until four years ago, Iowa felons were given back voting rights after finishing their prison sentences. 

photo by John Pemble / IPR

Voter turnout Tuesday was not as high as the historic turnout in the 2010 midterm election, but the Secretary of State's office says it came close. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Early voting for the 2014 midterm elections begins Thursday in Iowa.

A record number of absentee ballots for a midterm election have gone out to Iowa voters according to Secretary of State Matt Schultz. 2014 requests for absentee ballots are about double, compared with 2010.

"We've got about 60,000 Democrats who have asked for absentee ballots," Schultz said. "We've got more than 30,000 Republicans and about 25,000 no-party voters. So you do the math and we're getting close to 100,000."

Daniel R. Blume /

On this News Buzz edition of the program, hear about a legislative shouting match, legalizing fireworks, the ACLU lawsuit against the Iowa Secretary of State, a survey of Iowans' thoughts on gay marriage, the Kepler mission, and a push to increase studying abroad.

Legislative shouting match and and other legislative fireworks:

ACLU lawsuit:

Same-sex marriage opinions:

Finding exoplanets:

Studying abroad:

Daniel Hoherd

So far this year, Des Moines has reported eight home invasions; the number coming very close to the eleven home invasions reported over the course of the entire previous year (2013).

mikek7890 / flickr

In the summer of 1964, the Civil Rights Movement included many people with various backgrounds working together for a cause. University of Iowa Emeritus Professor of History Shelton Stromquist was one who put his life on the line to help the movement in Mississippi.  He joins host Charity Nebbe to talk about his experiences.

NASA's Juno spacecraft passed within about 350 miles of Earth's surface this week, before slingshotting off into space on a historic exploration of Jupiter.

On this news buzz version of River to River, hear from a University of Iowa research engineer about Juno, and from the president of the University of Iowa Amateur Radio Club about why they waved to Juno electronically, as it whizzed by.

That, and many other items in our news worth buzzing about.

cool revolution / flickr

On Politics Wednesday on River to River, guest host Dean Borg talks about recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  Guests include political analysts Donna Hoffman, Professor and Chair of Political Science at University of Northern Iowa and Tim Hagle, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa.  Iowa Congressman Steve King also gives his reaction to the rulings and gives an update on the Farm Bill from Washington D.C.

John Pemble / IPR

Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell joins IPR "Morning Edition" Host Sarah McCammon for a preview of this week's Iowa legislative news.

Ballot Access in Iowa

Jan 10, 2013

Iowa is one of only ten states in the U.S. where people can register to vote on the same day they cast their ballot. Iowa is also one of the most difficult states in the nation for former felons to regain their voting rights. Host Ben Kieffer discusses ballot access in Iowa - we look at our state's changing policies on voting as well as the integrity of our election system.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Citizens throughout Iowa gathered  by video-conference Thursday for a Des Moines-based public hearing to voice their opinion on Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s proposed voter purge rule. The proposal would allow the removal of voters from registration rolls if citizenship can’t be proven. The rule has drawn fire from civil rights and immigrants’-rights groups who say it would intimidate new citizens from voting.

Amy Mayer

Nearly one-third of Story County voters requested ballots for early voting. But as Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer reports, many people remain loyal to in-person voting on Election Day.

Eagle.Dawg / Flickr

Analysts are saying the outcome of this election hinges on one factor – turnout. Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa party officials across the state to find out what the major parties are doing to get out the vote.Then, Greg Hamot a University of Iowa College of Education professor, and Rachel Willis, executive director at Kids Voting USA, talk about how kids perceive the candidates and the discussions parents can have with them about the election.

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

Early in-person voting has begun in Iowa, the first swing state to open polling sites.

Residents of the battleground state can now vote in person at their local county auditors' offices or turn them in by mail. Some areas will offer additional satellite locations.

At the Polk County Auditor's office in downtown Des Moines Thursday morning, a line of voters stretched down the block as the door opened.

Peter Clay, 62, was among the many supporters of President Obama. He says he's volunteered for the campaign on his days off from his job as a zookeeper.

Jason Brackins / Flickr

Early voting begins tomorrow in Iowa and many county auditors have said they've seen an increase interest in absentee ballot requests. It's six weeks from Election Day, and on today's Politics Day we talk with our political experts about recent events and IPR's Sarah McCammon gives an update of the presidential candidates' ground game throughout the state.

Then, one Urbandale newlywed shares how his nuptials where thrown for a curve when the president showed up.

Controversial voter ID laws across the country are getting a lot of attention. Here in Iowa, voter rules approved by Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz are also falling under scrutiny. The new rules could keep some of Iowa’s Latinos home on Election Day. That concern was brought up before a state rulemaking panel at the capitol Tuesday. 

League of Women Voters of California / Flickr

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz  hopes to match  Iowa voter registration lists  against a federal database to purge non-citizens from the rolls.   Critics  call it  a solution in search of a problem.

The general election is just over four months away and some may already know how and when they’re voting. Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Political Science Professor Tim Hagle and Associate Professor and author Doug Jones about the attempts made to improve the voting process and if the U.S. elections have gotten better. Later, Ben talks with Bill Schickel, Co-Chair of the Republican Party of Iowa and Caucus Review Committee Chairman about lessons learned from the GOP caucus counting mix-up.

In 2008 more voters UNDER the age of 35 participated in the election than voters OVER the age of 65. And voters under 30 overwhelmingly supported Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama. But, a lot can happen in four years. Host Ben Kieffer talks with young voters about who they’re supporting in 2012 and the issues important to them.  Guests include Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research for the Pew Research Center, Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, and Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote.