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State Government News

Voter ID Clears Senate; Democrats Warn of Voting Delays

Joyce Russell/IPR
Sen. Robie Smith (R-Davenport)

On a partisan vote of 26 to 21, the GOP-controlled Senate last night approved its version of an elections bill that will require voters to present identification at the polls. 

The bill also requires pollworkers to verify signatures of voters, adds some complexity to absentee voting, as well as limiting the window for early voting.

This is the wait in long lines to vote act. -Sen. Joe Bolkcom

That has led Democrats to argue that the bill will make it harder for Iowans to be handed a ballot, and more complicated  to complete the voting process. 

“This is the wait in long lines to vote act,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City).

Critics say the bill will require pollworkers with limited training to examine documents proving a voter’s identity, including comparing signatures.    They say limiting early voting will add to long lines at the polls.

In contentious debate, Republicans argued the integrity of the voting system is at stake.

“We have voter fraud in Iowa,” said Sen. Robie Smith (R-Davenport).   “That’s a fact.”

"We are putting new barriers in the process and excluding voters,” responded Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines.  “That is a fact.”

We have voter fraud in Iowa. -Sen. Robie Smith

“It is about suppressing the vote and making access to the ballot far more difficult for many in the state,” said Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque.)   “This is an expensive solution in search of a problem.”

Smith countered by pointing to 27 cases of first-degree election misconduct in the past five years and eight cases where people voted twice. 

Democrats argued Iowans have already proven their identity when they register to vote.    

Backers say polls suggest Iowans favor requiring identification to vote.

“This is something Iowans want,” Smith said.

The bill goes back to the House for consideration of Senate changes.

The Senate bill alters the format for new ID cards the state will issue to voters who lack driver’s licenses or other government-issued identification.  

It also expands the number of challengers overseeing absentee and special precinct vote counting.  

The Senate bill also allows young voters to vote in a primary election if they will be 18 by the general election.