A spirited public hearing last night focused on the Republican-led effort to establish a voter ID requirement for Election Day balloting in Iowa. The bill that’s ready for debate in the Iowa House is largely what Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate first proposed two months ago.
“Nothing in this legislation will prevent any eligible Iowan from voting,” Pate said. “It’s disappointing that some folks have decided to politicize this issue, especially when poll after poll has shown overwhelming support for a voter ID program.”
Critics say the elderly, minorities and disabled Iowans are less likely to have a driver’s license and will find it difficult to figure out they need to use the new voter registration card Pate’s office plans issue.
“We are gravely concerned with any voter ID bills,” said Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP. “We feel that they are nothing short of a reincarnated poll tax and literacy test.”
Aaron Sewell, a teacher from West Des Moines, said the bill will “secure the right to vote.”
“I’ve always concerned myself a welcoming person…but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to wait around and wait for my own home to be burglarized before I start locking the doors,” Sewell said.
Eric Gjerde, a teacher from Cedar Rapids, said the bill is “hateful.”
“The only reason to introduce this legislation is to keep certain groups of people — generally low income Americans who are often people of color, students, elderly or the disabled — from the polling places,” Gjerde said.
Renee Schulte, a political consultant from Urbandale, tried to pass a voter ID requirement when she represented the city of Cedar Rapids in the Iowa House.
“You will hear today that the amount of voter fraud is small in Iowa,” said Schulte, a Republican. “…My question is this: how many fraudulent votes are o.k.?”
John McCormally, a Des Moines attorney, is active in Democratic Party politics.
“There is nothing in this bill that makes voting in Iowa better or easier,” McCormally said.
Kim Reem of Marion is vice president of the National Federation of Republican Women and she supports the bill, especially the provision that does away with the option of voting a “straight ticket” for every candidate of one political party.
“This is especially true in college communities where students are turned out in large numbers,” she said, “but are uninformed about local races and likely they will not pay a penny of the local economic impact for their uneducated vote.”
Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said the bill will “suppress” voting.
“This seems like we’re fixing something that’s not broken,” Weipert said. “I get that you know, hey, sometimes you’ve got to put some grease on a squeaky wheel…so maybe we can make some tweaks. This is an overhaul, an overhaul on something that is not broken.”
The state association for county auditors — the local officials who conduct elections in Iowa — opposes the bill.