Edits have been ordered on Iowa voter registration forms.
Rita Bettis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said the form that had been drafted was confusing and potentially misleading.
“The problem is that in asking the questions that were meant to assist voters in determining whether or not they are qualified to vote, the actual organization of the form was such that it was sort of like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book,” Bettis said, laughing. “…The yeses and nos didn’t even line up and some of them conflicted.”
A new form devised by the state’s Voter Registration Commission had been set to go into use on August 1st, but officials in the Iowa Secretary of State’s office have agreed changes in the form are necessary before it goes into use. Chad Olsen, a spokesman for the Secretary of State, said they’re clarifying one section where people were asked a series of four questions to determine if they were eligible to vote.
“You know, you might answer: ‘No, No, Yes and No’ or ‘No, No, No and Yes,’ and it got confusing,” Olsen says. “You had to read the instructions at the bottom — one has one asterisk, one had two asterisks on it — to determine whether you could fill out the form.”
On the revised form, potential voters will be asked three questions and a no answer to any of the three signals they are not eligible to vote.
In another area of the abandoned document, the potential voter was asked if they had been convicted of a felony, since felons aren’t allowed to vote, but in another area of the form there was another question about whether they were a felon who had their voting rights restored.
“So we pointed out a solution, to line up the yeses and nos and sort of collapse the two conflicting questions into a single, clear question,” Bettis said.
Olsen said that’s sensible.
“The suggestion that the ACLU had actually, we believe, helps clarify that section of the form,” Olson said.
The issue of voter registration has been controversial over the past few years. Matt Schultz, Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, has been advocating a new state law that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The Iowa ACLU filed a lawsuit last year to try to stop an effort by Schultz to cull through voter registration records to check for ineligible voters. Democrat Brad Anderson announced in January he would challenge Schultz in 2014 and Anderson is critical of voter ID laws.