Iowa to Mail 123,000 Voter ID Cards

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The State of Iowa will mail 123,000 state-issued ID cards to voters who lack other identification as part of a new law that will require voter ID by 2019. The Des Moines Register has more:

Iowans should be on the lookout this week for new voter identification cards, the Secretary of State’s office announced Monday. 

The office tasked with overseeing Iowa’s elections said roughly 123,000 cards will be mailed out as part of its efforts to implement a new voter identification law passed earlier this year by the Iowa Legislature. That law will require Iowans to show a valid form of ID at the ballot box beginning with the 2019 elections. 

“It should be easy to vote, but hard to cheat, and that’s what this new law ensures,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement.

The new law, which has faced heavy criticism from Democrats and civil rights advocates, will require voters to show an Iowa driver’s license, non-operator’s license, military ID, veterans ID, passport or a new state-issued voter ID card before they can cast a ballot. 

State-issued voter ID cards are being mailed to all registered voters who are not already on record with the Iowa Department of Transportation as having a driver’s or non-operators license. 

“We are taking the unprecedented step of mailing free Voter ID cards automatically to every registered voter who does not already have an Iowa driver’s license or non-driver’s ID,” Pate said in a statement. “Only those Iowans will receive these cards. I encourage them to be on the lookout for the Voter ID cards in the mail, and when they receive their card, open it, sign it and keep it.”

According to the Secretary of State’s office, about 123,000 cards will be issued at a cost of about $79,000. That represents about 6 percent of Iowa voters.

Voters who do not have a DOT-issued identification card and who do not receive a new state-issued card by the end of December should contact their county auditor’s office. Voters who lose their state-issued ID card also will need to contact their county auditor. 

Pate and state Republican leaders have framed the issue as an effort to protect the integrity of Iowa’s elections, though there is little evidence that widespread voter fraud is a problem in Iowa or elsewhere in the country. 

Democrats say the law changes will disproportionately hurt those who are less likely to have access to existing identification, including racial minorities, the poor, the elderly and the disabled. 

“The main point we want to make about voter ID in Iowa is this: Don’t be intimidated or discouraged from casting your vote,” Rita Bettis, American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa’s legal director, wrote in an email Monday. 

She noted that throughout 2018, Iowa voters will be asked to show their ID at the polls. If they do not have one, they’ll be asked to sign an oath verifying their identity before they can cast a normal ballot.

The law is scheduled to take full effect beginning in 2019. Then, if voters do not have one of the required forms of ID, they can cast a normal ballot if they bring a person to the polls who can attest to their identity.

If they do not have a person verifying their identity, they will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot will be counted if the voter can provide a valid ID before the Monday after election day.

Iowa’s action reflects the growing understanding by voter ID proponents and opponents alike that the success of such laws – in practice and in court – hinges on whether or not voters without ID can get access to it in a convenient and timely manner. It remains to be seen if these mailings will address that challenge to opponents’ satisfaction; either way, you can bet that voter ID will be a hot issue in the 2018 statewide election, including for Secretary of State. Stay tuned …

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