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New voter ID bill may hurt students

BY RYAN COLE | FEBRUARY 01, 2011 7:10 AM

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Students who want to vote in Johnson County may have to get new photo IDs under legislation that passed in the Iowa House and is awaiting vote in the Senate.

The House of Representatives passed the bill Jan. 28, which requires specific types of photo identification for anyone who wishes to vote in the state.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Renee Schulte, R-Cedar Rapids, requires possession of a photo identification that in this county must include a Johson County address. This means nonresident University of Iowa students wishing to vote would have to acquire photo identification from the Department of Transportation in Johnson County.

Some students are concerned the measure could discourage their peers from voting.

“I don’t really agree with [the bill], especially in a college town, where people come from different areas,” said UI junior Jeremy Keffer.

And several students from outside Johnson County said they would be less likely to vote if the bill ultimately became law.

House Republicans said the bill was a precautionary move to protect against voter fraud.

“[Critics] say we’re trying to a solve a problem that isn’t there,” said Rep. Jack Drake, R-Griswold.

And though he said fraud hasn’t been a problem in most elections, representatives said it could sway results unfairly when the tallies are close.

“I look at it [the bill] as a way of protecting the voting process,” said Rep. Lance Horbach, R-Tama.
But some Democrats said the legislation is discriminatory against Iowans without proper ID.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said students, the elderly, and the disabled are among those who would be affected by the change.

Mascher emphasized the ability to vote is a right, not a privilege, and said the process should be “as easily accessible to voters as possible.”

Voters can obtain a photo ID at the Department of Transportation for $5, but county auditors said they believe this measure would create a burden on taxpayers.

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett estimated the program would cost Iowa $1 million annually.

Slockett said auditors feel they were “misled” by House Republicans. County auditors plan to talk this week with experts from other states, and they will discuss their findings on Feb. 11. Slockett said the they were led to believe Republicans would wait until after this meeting to enact legislation.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Iowa City, said his primary disagreement was also with the swiftness of action.

“I don’t have a problem with people using photo IDs to make the process go better,” he said, but moving forward “without due diligence is just plain goofy.”

The bill will next go to the Senate. Legislators had mixed opinions on the bill’s prospects in the Senate.

“I think that there’s a pretty good chance [it will pass],” Drake said. “I think it’s very popular with constituents.”

But Mascher said she was so confident of the bill’s failure in the Senate she didn’t attempt to improve the bill through amendments.

“I don’t believe any of this will become law,” she said.


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