Democrats in the Iowa Senate have approved a bill which would toss out the requirement that Iowans register to vote at least 10 days before an election and instead would let voters register at the polls on Election Day.

Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, says 10 days out, lots of people haven’t even decided whether they’ll vote. "There’s people that haven’t made up their mind — they think both parties are a bunch of idiots but the last couple of days they say ‘You know, one of these are less idiots than the other and so I think I’d better go vote,’" Dearden said during debate in the Iowa Senate. "By gosh, they ought to have that opportunity."

Senator Staci Appel, a Democrat from Ackworth, was the bill’s chief proponent.  "Making voter registration easy and conveninent is an effective way to increase civic participation," Appel said. "In fact, voter turn-out in the seven states that allow Election Day registration — including Minnesota and Wisconsin — is consistently 10 percent higher than (it is) in states that do not permit it."

But Senator Mark Zieman, a Republican from Postville who opposed the bill, predicts "hanky-panky" at the polls. "In 2004 the state of Wisconsin went (to) same-day voter registration. What they have found is that they have 4600 more ballots cast than they have voters. They have found 200 cases of felons voting (and) a hundred people voting using fake names and addresses," Zieman said. "They even found one dead person who made it to the polls."

Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, voted against the bill, too. "I grew up in Chicago and believe me, I don’t want Iowa to become anything like Cook County where they pass out hams to vote," Boettger said. "…I do not want Iowa to be the place where votes count and count and count and count."

The bill passed the Iowa Senate late Tuesday afternoon on a party-line vote, with all 30 Democrats voting "yes" and all 20 Republicans voting "no." The bill has already cleared the Iowa House. Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat who for the past eight years served as Iowa’s commissioner of elections, has said he’ll sign it into law.