Divided Testimony On Voter ID

Mar 6, 2017

People testifying at a hearing on a proposed voter ID bill were divided on whether the bill would protect election integrity or keep significant numbers of people away from the polls.  Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was the first to testify before the House State Government Committee Monday night.  He says the bill is about protecting elections, and nothing else.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says he's adamant voter ID will not disenfranchise anyone.
Credit Michael Leland/IPR

“No eligible voter will be denied their right to vote by this legislation,” Pate said.  “I am adamant about that fact, and I will fight to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised.”

But many opponents weren’t buying it.  Doug Lane of Robins told the committee it makes no sense to spend money enacting a voter ID bill when there’s little to no voting fraud.

“We see this bill for what it is…an attempt to disenfranchise voters in an attempt to preserve Republican Party majorities for as long as possible,” he said.

Lane also predicted the cost of the program would be much higher than projected if the state ends up having to defend a voter ID law in court. 

The bill’s opponents include the NAACP and the ACLU.  Both organizations say minorities, older Iowans, and disabled people are less likely to have a photo ID than other people. 

Secretary Pate has said people without an ID would receive one automatically, free of charge.  He also says people who arrive at the polls without an ID could cast a provisional ballot, which gives the voter time to prove he or she is eligible to vote.  Some of the bill’s opponents expressed doubt that many of those ballots would ever be certified, especially if the person who filled it out had to take time off work to make another trip to the county auditor’s office.

Supporters of the bill who testified cited the many things that most Iowans regularly need an ID for: renting a car, buying alcohol, cashing a check, or applying for a loan.

Thirty-five people delivered three-minute testimony at the hearing.  Fourteen spoke in support of the bill and 21 said they were against it.