The Iowa Capitol shown on the opening day of the Iowa Legislature, Jan. 9, 2017. — photo by Lauren Shotwell
By Cindy Altmaier Riley
I love Iowa! Did you know that over 70 percent of Iowans registered to vote turned out in the recent election? As Iowans we should be proud of this; voting is part of who we are as a state. That said, I have to admit that the Iowa election process could benefit from a technology upgrade. To this end, Secretary of State Paul Pate has recently introduced a bill to improve the integrity of Iowa elections. Mr. Pate proposes increased funding for electronic poll books. If the money can be found in the budget, this could be a positive step for Iowa voters, and I support this. However, Mr. Pate also included a couple items I do not support: voter ID restrictions and a signature verification process. These items will not improve voter turnout, and I oppose any barriers between the voter and the ballot.
Let me start with the voter ID requirement. It is well-established that in-person voter fraud is exceedingly rare with one study finding only about 30 cases out of every billion votes. The issue of voter IDs is a solution without a problem, and it can prevent taxpaying citizens from exercising their most basic democratic right. When faced with budget shortages, is this the way you want your tax dollars spent? I don’t. If we must go down this road a non-photo ID card is an option that would be less of a barrier. But even this adds unnecessary costs to Iowans and the state.
Requiring signature verification is also a major concern. This introduces an amount of subjectivity into the process that opens Iowa up to many potential issues. This verification process could result in conscious or unconscious profiling. This verification process could result in increased training costs for our poll workers. This verification process could result in honest mistakes that could turn away hard-working Iowans when they arrive to participate in their fundamental right to vote. If we could automate the verification process some of the unconscious mistakes could be avoided. However, this is a cost that is hard to justify in a tight budget.
I wholeheartedly support a non-partisan effort to improve the voting process through technology and automation so we can drive our participation rate up. But, let’s be cost-conscious and skip the barriers of a voter ID and signature verification process.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 215.