Voter ID Law Misinterpreted in Tuesday Special Election

Aug 29, 2018

A qualified voter in a special schoolboard election in Washington County Tuesday was turned away at the polls, and election officials are promising better training in the future about Iowa’s new voter ID law.   

Susan McClellan arrived at the polling place in Wellman for the Mid-Prairie School Board election without her driver’s license.  

For this year, Iowa’s new voter ID law requires poll workers to ask for an ID, but to offer the voter the option of signing an oath of identification instead.

"That's something we'll need to do a better job on." -Washington County Auditor Don Widmer

McClellen says she was not allowed to sign the oath or to cast a provisional ballot.

County Auditor Dan Widmer says the poll workers made a mistake “pure and simple.”

“I'm not glad to know this but I need to know it so we can focus on this in the future with regard to our training,” Widmer said, “when we do train the poll workers coming up for the November elections.”

Under state law, training of election personnel is required for primary and general elections, but optional for special elections.

Widmer says they trained poll workers on the new law before the primary election in June, but did not do so again before Tuesday.   

"They shouldn't be turning away people." -Wellman resident Susan McClellen

“That’s something we'll need to do a better job on,” Widmer said.   “If there's someone that didn’t work at the recent primary election we'll need to perhaps, no not perhaps, we’ll need to do one on one training with that person.”

In nearby Johnson County, officials say they have trained poll workers ahead of a special city council election scheduled for next week.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert is president of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors.    He said he “would hope” that election officials are conducting training for poll workers for special elections.

“That’s what they should be doing,” Weipert said.

McClellen said she worked out Tuesday at the city recreation center, and didn’t have her purse with her when she went to vote at the polling place in the same building.  She said she could have gone home and returned with her ID to vote but Tuesday’s storms broke out in the meantime.

She doesn’t blame the poll workers.

“They said that's what we were told, that you need to get an ID,”  McClellan said.

McClellan said a woman who took her call at the Washington County Auditor’s Office apologized and promised more training for poll workers.    

“I just want to make sure that they're trained better,” McClellan said.   “We have an election in the fall and they shouldn't be turning away people.”