Iowa Legislature Passes Voter ID, Sends to Governor

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Late last week, the Iowa Legislature voted to approve a new voter ID bill and send it to Governor Terry Branstad for his expected signature. The Des Moines Register has more:

The Iowa Senate gave final approval Thursday to contentious legislation that will require voters to show government-issued identification at the polls and will reduce the time period for early voting.

House File 516 passed on a 28-21 vote with Republicans casting all the yes votes. Democrats and one independent all voted no. The bill now heads to Gov. Terry Branstad, who is expected to sign it…

The legislation makes sweeping changes to Iowa’s elections laws that Republicans say are needed to ensure the honesty of the process and prevent fraud. Among them is a provision that would require every voter to present government-issued identification at the poll on Election Day. In addition, the bill shortens the time frame for casting absentee ballots and voting early at satellite polling sites from 40 days to 29 days.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, who proposed the bill, issued a statement praising the legislature’s action to approve the Election Modernization and Integrity Act.

“My proposal was aimed at modernizing Iowa’s elections technology, streamlining the system, and protecting it against the potential for human error and fraud,” Pate said. “The bill passed by both chambers accomplishes those goals and ensures every eligible Iowan will be able to cast their ballot and will not be turned away. I look forward to the governor signing the bill into law, and then the real work begins as we will coordinate with all 99 county auditors to implement this legislation, and institute our extensive outreach program so that every Iowan understands the provisions of this bill.”

Opponents of the bill were critical of both the original bill (which I wrote about back in January) and accompanying amendments that they claim will disenfranchise voters:

The measure had previously passed the Senate, but a second vote was needed on Thursday because of several amendments approved by the House. There was only brief debate Thursday, but Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, strongly objected to one amended provision. The change pushes back the date for allowing 17-year-old Iowans to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 by the date of the general election. The change will now take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, instead of being available for the 2018 election.

“This change goes hand in hand with a voter suppression bill,” Bisignano said.

The next step in this fight is undoubtedly litigation – though the bill’s supporters believe they have crafted a law that can withstand judicial scrutiny:

Republicans said the bill has been crafted to address possible court challenges. They also point to a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll which found 69 percent of Iowans support requiring an ID to vote

The bill outlines five forms of identification that would be valid at the polls, four of which include a photo. The fifth would be a new voter verification card the state and county would issue to every voter free of charge. Those who show up to the polls without valid ID could vote using a provisional ballot.

Other provisions in the bill would eliminate the option for voters to check a single box for straight-party voting, put money toward helping precincts purchase digital poll books, and establish post-election audits.

If the Governor does indeed sign the bill as expected, it will bring widespread changes to Iowa election law and present challenges for county auditors – both in implementing the law and staying abreast of possible changes due to litigation. You can bet this new law will draw lots of attention in Iowa and nationwide … stay tuned.

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