The Daily Iowan

New state auditor may change voting rules

ADAM B SULLIVAN

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A newly elected state official is looking to change the voting system, which organizers say helped bring out a record number of voters in Johnson County and across the state during the recent midterm elections.

Some say the push by Iowa’s incoming secretary of State could disenfranchise potential voters and curb turnout.

Matt Schultz, a Republican from Council Bluffs, pulled off an upset over first-term Secretary of State Michael Mauro last month. During the campaign, Schultz argued that Iowa’s voting system was vulnerable to fraud.

He said he’ll work with the Legislature to implement three remedies:

• Require voters to present state-issued photo identification at polling places

"We are required to show a photo ID when we travel on an airplane, cash a check, and when we check into a hotel room. We are required to have a driver’s license when we drive, and we should be required to show a photo ID when we vote," Schultz writes on his campaign website. Schultz did not return requests for an interview.

But Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett said existing state procedures already protect against voter fraud. Citizens who register within 10 days of Election Day, for instance, have to provide identification and proof of address at their polling places.

And even if policymakers did require a state-issued ID from all voters, Slockett said, it wouldn’t guarantee against all voter fraud.

"How did photo IDs work enforcing entry to bars in Iowa City?" Slockett said. "And many people have strong objections to having to carry an ID around — certain religious affiliations or minority groups."

Some student political leaders say this change could be particularly damaging to young voters, who tend to move often. During the last campaign, various groups pushed students to vote by explaining to them how easy it is to register at their polling location.

While state legislatures across the country govern voting laws in their respective states, the issue of requiring photo identification has played out on the national stage.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld photo-identification requirements. Today, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports there are eight states in which voters need to have a photo ID; Oklahoma will join that group next year.

National interest groups, too, have clung to the issue. Organizers say worries about voter fraud — like Schultz’s — are largely unfounded.

"There’s this idea that dozens of people are coming to polling places every hour claiming to be someone else. But it’s practically unheard of. It just doesn’t happen," said Estelle Rogers, an attorney at Project Vote, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C.

And contrary to preventing problems, some say requiring IDs actually discourages people from voting.

"It’s one more reason not to go vote," said Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman at D.C.-based Common Cause. "Why require an extra hoop that people have to jump through?"

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