Llegislation that would let you register to vote, on voting day, passed the Iowa House 54-45. Right now you must register at least ten days before an election, to vote in it. But Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, argues it often excludes students in her college town.
Kroeschell says 52-percent of the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq are under the age of 25, yet that’s the group with the lowest voting turnout in this country. "We need to not only encourage them to vote, we need to break down the barriers and insist that they have every opportunity to vote." Republicans like
Representative Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant say the current law cuts down on voter fraud. He quotes his "auditor at home" as complaining that there are big holes in the election system. "These people show us their ID’s and it’s all on trust. They say they live here and we say OK, sign this paper, they vote, it’s all on trust. I think we just need to have something a little bit more solid."
Representative Gary Worthan, a Republican from Storm Lake, says Iowans should take their right to vote as seriously as Iraqis did. "We saw the pictures," Worthan says, recalling people with ink-stained fingers that showed they’d voted "knowing that it could be a death sentence." He says they took their responsibility to heart. "If you haven’t got the ambition to get off your dead end ten days before the ballot and go in and register to vote, I really question your judgment about who you’re gonna vote for."
Deborah Berry, a Democratic Representative from Waterloo, says everyone’s situation is different. There is a "segment out there," she says, who haven’t had the right to vote. "I think that if voting is a constitutional right then I think we should make it easier for every American to exercise that right."
Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, rejected the argument that college students who forget to register in their adopted hometown, should be allowed to register on voting day. "Lotta people have given their lives for the right of us to vote," Baudler says. "We’re saying that a bunch of college students can’t make an effort other than on election day to register when people have given their lives over this issue. This is a bad bill."
Des Moines Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat, says the goal should be to open up the voting process, not close it. Hunter says what makes the system work is to get as many people involved as possible. "And whether they are enthused to vote a month before the election, a week before the election, or something spurred them on that day of the election, if they want to vote and vote legally, they should be given the process to do that."