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Voter Registration Goes Paperless...For Those With I.D.

Flickr / Phil Roeder
Des Moines voters at a senior living polling place on Election Day, 11/02/2010.

Registering to vote in Iowa just got a whole lot easier, provided you have a driver’s license or state-issued ID. A new portal allows the Iowa Department of Transportation to share a voter’s information with Iowa’s Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Paul Pate says the portal is a more accurate and efficient way to maintain voter information, and will make Iowa voting a quicker process. 

"It can reduce the lines on Election Day. If you're going to change something, do it before you go in," says Pate. "it gives us the time to verify the integrity side, that you are who you say you are, and we can assure people that they are getting the kind of election they want."

After filing out an online form, voters are sent an email confirmation as well as a registration card within seven business days. 

The DOT reports that over 150 voters have already used the portal to register or update their information. The department says that fees will not be raised or additional tax payer money allocated, as the portal was created using monies within the department's annual operating budget. 

Voter accessibility advocates say while the portal is a great start, it ignores the nearly seven percent of eligible voters in Iowa who don’t have a state-issued ID. Many of these roughly 145,600 Iowans are elderly, minorities, veterans, or disabled. 

"The system, as it has been unveiled, is truly a good first step...[but] the law needs to be applied equally," says Pete McRoberts, who is legislative counsel for the ACLU of Iowa. "There can’t be a system of voter registration that excludes people with disabilities."

McRoberts wants a separate or complimentary system created, so that Iowans who don't have a state issued ID can still register online. He says if the SOS doesn't provide an online option,it violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, which says that disabled Americans are entitled to the same services as those who are able-bodied. 

Pate says Iowa voter registration is ADA compliment since the portal is just one of many ways Iowans can register. 

Iowans don't need a photo ID to register to vote, though they must prove their identity and address. All identification forms must be current, valid and have an expiration date. Someone registering on Election Day can also have another voter in their precinct attest to their identity and residence by signing an oath.