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Voter ID bill proposed

By Candace Mettle

Iowa Republicans, led by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, have introduced “The Election Integrity Act” (officially called House Study Bill 93) to combat voter fraud. However, many have expressed concerns about the intent of the law, including election auditors, civil rights lawyers and Iowans.

According to the Des Moines Register, election auditors found only 10 cases of voter fraud out of the 1.6 million cast in Iowa in November. Out of the 10, most incidents occurred due to human error that officials quickly corrected. Considering the drastically low number of cases, voter fraud has not yet been found to change the outcome of any election conducted in Iowa.

The Election Integrity Act states that voters must bring with them a driver’s license, state ID and other official forms of identification to be eligible to vote. Polling monitors will then scan the card to verify the eligibility of the voter, specifically if the voter’s name appears in an electronic voting list.  Signature and absentee ballot verification will also measure the validity of a voter’s ballot.

Iowans without any official identification will automatically receive a voter identification card in the mail. Currently, at least 85,000 Iowan residents would need to obtain a voter’s identification card.

Political Science professor Peter Hanson echoed the same concerns that many have over the bill.

“Studies suggest that the effects of voter ID laws can be significant; it can disfranchise thousands of people if they have to jump through all the hoops that are necessary to vote,” Hanson said. “If you think about the history of the United States, there are always laws that seem innocuous on the face that have been used to suppress the vote in the past.”

Hanson cited the civil rights movement, and what led up to it, as an example of the implications of voter fraud provisions. As the results of the civil rights movement showed, designed measures to prevent certain groups of people from voting ceased. However, as more states move to adopt laws claiming to prevent voter fraud, it undoes all the progress made from the U.S’s past.

“I simply look at voter ID laws as an attempt to resurrect a new kind of barrier,” Hanson said.

Hanson believes that HSB 93 has a real chance of passing successfully through the legislature. Currently the Republican party holds a near absolute majority, and Hanson believes that the bill has clear partisan effects and goals.

“People who are likely to be affected are disproportionally democrats, which has led most observers to conclude is what we’re seeing here is not about combating voter fraud, but it’s rather about partisan agenda,” Hanson said. “For that reason I’m skeptical of these laws.”

“I think we need to make it easier for people to vote, we need to encourage people to vote and I think that any law which make it more difficult and  in particular one that cuts disproportionally across the population and singles out vulnerable groups or those targeted in the past is really troubling.”

Voting, according to Hanson, is the single most important means to ensure that citizens can effectively protect their interests.

“[People] can mobilize and they can demonstrate and they can put pressure on members of congress, but [if] that pressure doesn’t translate in votes, [then] it doesn’t have a lot of meaning,” Hanson said.

As Hanson said, the civil rights movement found success through reminding their congressmen, mainly ones from the Democratic Party which held pro-slavery and Jim Crow stances in the past, that they are constituents of their districts too. In turn, congressmen had no choice but to respond to their constituents.

“it’s a puzzle to how Democrats became supportive of civil rights,” Hanson said. “A big part of the answer is that [they] responded to black voters so by and that’s the north of course so the most important thing you can do is to allow all citizens their rights is the right to vote.”

Lawyers from the ACLU of Iowa and election auditors believe that HSB 93 will complicate and prolong voting. Iowa has one of the highest voting turnout numbers in the country due to its accessible polling stations and long period for ballot submission.

“The consequences of these laws are real and we should be concerned,” Hanson said.

Secretary Pate told the Des Moines Register that the bill will strengthen confidence in Iowan voters and maintain the fairness of elections within the state. However, Secretary Pate’s office could not be reached for further comment.

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