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Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has signed a bill that will require voter ID and makes several other changes to the state’s election laws. The Des Moines Register has more:
Iowa voters soon will need to show identification at the polls under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Terry Branstad.
The measure overhauls Iowa’s election laws through a series of changes that Republicans say are needed to ensure the integrity of the process and to prevent fraud, but which Democrats and others argue will suppress votes by creating barriers for the poor, elderly, people with disabilities and minorities.
“Protecting the integrity of our election system is very important,” Branstad said at a public bill signing Friday. “And we’re very proud that Iowa has a tradition and history of doing so, and this is going to strengthen our ability and make it more effective and efficient.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which lobbied against the bill, issued a statement saying it is considering litigation to stop the law from moving forward.
“Today, voting in Iowa just got more difficult and more complicated,” Executive Director Mark Springer said in the statement. “With Gov. Branstad signing this outrageous voter suppression bill into law, tens of thousands of Iowa eligible voters will be harmed.”
The ID portion of the law will be rolled out starting in summer 2018:
Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, said the law will be implemented gradually. Poll workers will begin asking voters for ID during the next round of school board elections to get them used to the process, but they will not be turned away if they don’t have identification.
“We’ve got a little education time here and that’s why we did the soft rollout to give us plenty of time to do that,” Pate said.
Beginning with the June 2018 gubernatorial primaries, all voters will need to show a driver’s license, non-operators’ ID, military ID, passport or a new state-issued voter ID card. If voters don’t have proper ID, they’ll be asked to cast a provisional ballot.
The new voter cards issued by the state will include a signature and a four-digit personal identification number, and they will be issued to every registered voter who does not already have a driver’s license or non-operators license. The state initially would issue cards to an estimated 85,000 Iowans who qualify, and county auditors would be responsible for issuing the cards going forward.
The law also makes several key changes to election laws:
In addition to requiring identification at the polls, the law shortens the time period for early voting, eliminates the checkbox for straight-party voting and begins implementing new technology at polling locations.
These changes have sparked opposition from numerous county auditors – and one detailed her concerns to KMALand Radio:
Montgomery County Auditor Stephanie Burke is among the area officials who administers elections and has been digesting the proposed changes. She tells KMA News she is concerned with the portion of the bill that shortens absentee voting from 40 days to 29 days and shortens mail-in voting essentially to a 19-day window.
“We have been seeing an increase in absentee voting here in Montgomery County and all through the state of Iowa,” said Burke. “It could lead to some longer lines here (at the auditor’s office) and possibly at the polls.”
The law will also require voters to present a valid photo ID when voting in-person. The bill sets aside nearly $700,000 in a revolving loan to help counties with technology upgrades and providing free ID cards to those who do not have a driver’s license. Burke says eventually that money will run out, leaving the burden on county budgets.
“This is going to be an unfunded mandate for the counties down the road,” said Burke. “I don’t know the official number of Montgomery County residents who do not have a photo ID, but our county office will have to produce those, mail those out and keep up with the paperwork. It will be an unfunded mandate for us, as well as other counties across Iowa.”
The ID bill is already a hot-button issue for many auditors, several of whom have announced their interest in challenging Pate in next year’s election. That, plus the inevitable legal challenges to the bill, should make election law a moving target – and one to watch – in the Hawkeye State for the foreseeable future.