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Iowa officials weigh signature verification and additions to mail-in voting

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | DECEMBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Voters may be used to lines at polling booths, but recent comments from Iowa officials are focused instead on mail-in ballots for the next election.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said he is against full mail-in voting, which is in place in Oregon and Washington, and he is pushing for a signature-verification program for mail-in ballots.

“We just want people to do what they’re supposed to do,” Schultz said. “Absentee ballots are a way to commit fraud, and I think we need to be looking into that.”

One Johnson County supervisor wants to ensure voting integrity but disagreed such an investment was necessary.

“I just don’t think [voter fraud] happens enough, and with the millions of votes, generally, I think we are doing well overall,” Supervisor Sally Stutsman said.

Stutsman further said she “doesn’t hear the big numbers” to justify Schultz’s focus on voter fraud. Schultz said in an interview with “Iowa Press” he has an agreement with the Division of Criminal Investigations but has yet to receive a bill for the investigations.

According to press releases from Schultz’s office, election fraud charges were filed against two previously convicted felons who registered to vote in Warren and Wright Counties in October.

Charges were also filed against three individuals in Pottawatomie County in September.

One University of Iowa faculty member said the key is finding a balance between investigating voter fraud and ensuring voter access.

“One side sees a problem, and the other side doesn’t,” UI Associate Professor of political-science Tim Hagle said, noting that the problem with investigating fraud is officials don’t always recognize how large the problem is.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller expressed approval for considering full mail-in voting on the program, which is an opinion not shared by Schultz.

“I think if we start down that road, we should look at the total package in Washington and Oregon and really consider voting by mail, not in the polling place, that 100 percent of the vote would be by mail as they do in Oregon and Washington,” Miller said on “Iowa Press.”

Stutsman said such a move would go against some people’s traditions. She also wants to ensure there are plenty of options for voters to cast their ballot.

Schultz said absentee or mail-in voting accounts for almost half of people who voted in the last election. One way in which Iowa could verify signatures would be via a machine, which would compare signatures on ballots versus ones on file. The proposal is currently with his election advisory board made up of 10 county auditors — five Republicans and five Democrats, and will be further investigated.

“I need to balance voter rights with voter intentions, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said. “I don’t want to keep people from voting, but you want to keep people from cheating.”


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