Late last night Republicans on a House committee endorsed changes in Iowa election laws that supporters say will “modernize” the process.

“Leveraging 21st century technology to make Iowa elections more efficient, more voter-friendly and more secure,” said Representative Ken Rizer, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, chairman of the House State Government Committee.

Rizer said by updating technology with “electronic poll books,” precinct workers will be able to verify a voter’s identity with an ID card that can be swiped.

“Use of these laptops, coupled with bar code ID scanners, will speed up voter processing, simplify on-site trouble-shooting, cut down on mistakes and improve voter security,” Rizer said. “E poll books will make voting as easy as going through the express line at Hy-Vee.”

Rizer cited public opinion surveys showing overwhelming support for laws that require voters to show an ID in order to cast a ballot.

Democrats like Representative Vicki Lensing of Iowa City say the proposal will “disenfranchise” 85,000 disabled, elderly and minority voters in Iowa who do not have a driver’s license.

“I think if we want Iowa to continue to be a place where we have voting that is respected by other states, respected by our own voters, a system of integrity, this is not the way to go,” Lensing said.

Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, predicted precinct workers will have a hard time using the signature on I-Ds to verify the voter’s identity.

“That’s one of the ways where we’re going to be extending lines rather than making it easier to vote,” Winckler said.

About a quarter of Iowa counties do not currently have electronic poll books. The bill calls for setting aside more than $700,000 in state money to update voting technology. Republicans on the House State Government Committee approved the measure last night at about 11:30 p.m. It’s now eligible for debate in the full House. Senate Republicans have signalled support for the concept as well.