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Some protest voter ID bill

BY ELISE DILGER | JANUARY 27, 2012 7:20 AM

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A bill would in the Iowa Legislature would mandate stricter voter-identification rules, but some Iowa lawmakers and interest groups have questioned whether it's necessary.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz — who is responsible for overseeing elections in the state — has been pushing since last year for the Legislature to pass a voter-ID law. After the measure failed last year, he revised his proposal. The new plan would all those without IDs to be vouched for by someone with an ID. It would also allow voters to use school IDs.

Some Republican lawmakers say they support Schultz's plan.

"Fraud voters have never been a problem before," said Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, R-Dixon. "This is more of a backup to make sure the votes are valid."

Other legislators voice opposition. Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the bill would hurt many Democratic legislators' constituents.

"The bill is a ploy to cut down Democrat voting in the state of Iowa because about 20 percent of voters in Iowa are Democrats and do not own the proper identification in order to vote," he said.

He noted that there has only been one case of voter-identification fraud on record in the state's history, making the bill too harsh of a response to a small problem.

UI political-science professor Frederick Boehmke agreed.

"There may be a couple of cases that this bill could stop," he said. "But I don't think this type of fraud is a significant problem."

A person vouching for a potential voter under the bill would need government-issued identification with an expiration date or any identification issued from an Iowa secondary or postsecondary school. The person vouching would not need to be a registered voter.

Since University of Iowa student cards lack an expiration date, the bill would require the UI to print new cards with expiration dates within two years.

Voting-interest groups shared Dvorsky's concern. Bev Harris, the director of watchdog group Black Box Voting, said the bill wouldn't help cut back on fraud.

"The bill will not cut down on fraud voting because typically, if fraud happens, it is an inside job, not the general public impersonating voters," she said. "Also, in order to change 1 percent of the vote, about 3,000 voters would have to commit voting fraud."

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he agreed.

"The bill is a solution in search of a problem," he said. "There are virtually no cases of people trying to vote illegally. This is Schultz being cynical. This bill is preventing seniors, people with disabilities, and poor people from voting."

Legislators said they are currently unsure when the bill will be discussed in the Senate. If it passes, the identification restrictions will not go into effect until the 2014 election.


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