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PUBLIC HEARING HELD ON VOTER ID BILLS

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Hundreds of Iowans turned out for a public hearing on Monday night (March 6) to comment on the bill that would require all voters to show an ID card in order to vote.  Voter ID laws are very controversial. Supporters say they secure our voting systems.  Opponents say they create barriers to voting, especially people with disabilities, the elderly, minorities, and the poor who may not own a car (or have a license).  

House File 516 and Senate Study Bill 1163 both survived the funnel deadline.  The bills would:

  • Require voters show a valid ID in order to vote (Iowa driver license, Iowa non-operator ID, military or veteran ID, US passport, or a free non-photo voter registration card issued by the Secretary of State's office to all current and new registered voters who do not have other forms of ID).
     
  • Anyone without an ID would be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, but would likely need to produce proof of identity sometime in the next three days, perhaps requiring a trip to the county courthouse.
     
  • Poll workers and election officials would be allowed to question a person's identity based on information on the ID, including a voter's signature. In fact, the bills require a poll worker to give a voter a provisional ballot if they don't think the person looks like their ID, or the signature doesn't match.
     
  • Post-election audits are required every two years to ensure accuracy of voting results and expanded (and eventually statewide) use of electronic pollbooks are encouraged to increase voting site efficiency.

Over 100 people signed up to speak during the 90-minute public hearing, but it appears everyone that wanted to speak got to do so.  Opponents heavily outnumbered supporters. Their main arguments were based on:

  • Cost ("This is an unnecesary, poor use of taxpayer money.")
  • Need ("The Washington Post reported the results of a comprehensive investigation that found 31 possible counts of fraud among 1 billion votes cast since the year 2000.")
  • Intent ("It's pretty obvious the bill is about voter suppression, not election integrity.")
You can read all the comments submitted here.  Unfortunately, we did hear there were many that did not speak at the heaing because it was held at the same time as the off-year Demcoratic Party caucuses.  No disability advocate groups spoke at the hearing, but the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council submitted the following statement.

The DD Council is a federally funded state agency charged with effecting systems change that creates opportunities for Iowans with disabilities to live, learn and work in the communities of their choice. Meaningful and enduring change occurs only when Iowans with disabilities and their families are represented in the decision-making processes that drive opportunities for their greater independence.

The right to vote is an important part of that representation and the Council resists any attempts to erode the access to the electoral process that Iowans with disabilities currently enjoy. Most concerning is the identification requirement that has the potential to disproportionately limit the voting rights of Iowans with disabilities. One of the most common forms of identification, the driver’s license, is out of reach for many Iowans with disabilities simply because they are less likely to drive. And while many Iowans with disabilities can and do have passports and other forms of identification, they are often unaffordable or inaccessible to the one in three people with disabilities who live in poverty. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law about 11 percent of Americans do not have a government issued photo identification card, and the 2012 edition of the Pew Charitable Foundation’s Election Performance Index, found that 7.2 percent of registered voters with disabilities had no photo identification, compared with 4.5percent of those without disabilities. HF 516 does provide for the issuance of a free photo ID card to voters but even this may not be accessible to many Iowans with disabilities who experience housing shortages or other conditions that result in frequent moves.

 Equally troubling is that even Iowans with the necessary identification may have their eligibility to vote challenged on the basis of their signature. If the poll worker feels that the voter’s signature is not a match with their identification card, the voter will be required to cast a provisional ballot and furnish additional proof of their identity to have their vote counted. A voter’s signature may change over time and this is particularly problematic for individuals who are aging and/or who experience limiting physical disabilities.

Finally, these and other provisions of HF 516 that limit Iowan’s access to elections seem unnecessary in a system that Secretary of State Paul Pate just last year held up as “one of the cleanest, best election systems in the country”. The DD Council urges the Iowa Legislature to oppose this bill.

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Your legislators want to hear from you too.  Do you think voters should be required to show IDs to vote? Do you think this will cause problems for you?  What would make the bill better?  Email your legislators now!  Cick here to get started!