What Does It Take To Vote In The Midwest? It Depends.

When you go to the polls next week, don’t forget your ID. The upcoming election will be the first to see the enforcement of Iowa's new voter identification law, further differentiating Iowa's voter regulations from some neighboring states. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by reporters from across the Midwest for a look at voting rights in Iowa and beyond. 

Iowa

The upcoming statewide elections will be the first time Iowa enforces the voter identification law. Less than a month ago, Judge Joseph Seidlin upheld a portion of Iowa law requiring photo identification to vote. However, a provision of the law that would have prohibited officials from issuing a voter ID card based on Iowa driver’s license was struck down alongside a provision that would have allowed elections officials to dispute the signature on a registered voter’s application. 

In Iowa, all voters are qualified to vote absentee without restrictions and early voting is permitted. Individuals with a felony conviction are required to apply to the state to have their voting rights reinstated following their sentence. Iowa is one of only two states that do not automatically reinstate voting rights to those convicted of a felony following the completion of their sentence.

Wisconsin 

Voters in Wisconsin are required to present a form of photo ID at the polls, and the state permits absentee without restriction and no-excuse early voting. Convicted felon’s voting rights are automatically restored after completion of sentence, including prison time, parole and probation. 

Missouri

Voters in Missouri are required to present a form of non-photo ID in order to receive a ballot, and unlike many of its Midwestern neighbors, Missouri does not permit early voting and applies significant restrictions to absentee voting. To qualify to vote absentee, an individual must identify with one of a list of qualifiers, which includes incapacitation or confinement due to illness, absence from the jurisdiction on Election Day, and restrictions due to religious belief. 

Convicted felon's voting rights are automatically restored after completion of sentences, including prison time, parole and probation. 

Illinois

Voters in Illinois are not required to present a form of identification at the polls, and the state permits absentee and no-excuse early voting. Convicted felon’s voting rights are immediately restored upon completion of prison sentences. 

Guests include:

  • Katarina Sostaric, IPR Statehouse Reporter. 
  • Laurel White, Politics Reporters for Wisconsin Public Radio. 
  • Brian Ellison, Host of Statehouse Blend Missouri at KCUR. 
  • Brian Mackey, Statehouse Reporter, NPR Illinois.