Iowa Prepares for New Voter ID Setup

The new system includes voter identification cards that registered voters get who do not have a valid, Iowa DOT-issued driver’s license or non-operator identification.

by Denise Caskey, Creston News Advertiser / February 2, 2018

(TNS) — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate visited with leaders of both Democrat and Republican groups Thursday at the Union County Board of Supervisors room in the Union County Courthouse to explain how the state's new voting system will work.

“What we want to do is make sure we give everyone an opportunity to be a voter,” Pate said. “The last thing I want to see is them to be disenfranchised because they’re not getting the information they have to have to be successful at voting.”

The new system includes voter identification cards that are provided to registered voters who do not have a valid, Iowa DOT-issued driver’s license or non-operator identification. It has a bar code, used with the E-Poll books poll workers will utilize to identify each voter, as well as the voter’s signature and a voter ID number.

“We have new technology called E-Poll books,” Pate said. “You have them here in Union County. You’ve had them for quite a while actually. They are the greatest adminstrative tool we’ve seen because when we look at our state we have almost 2 million registered voters that we have to manage in this database. On top of that we have anywhere from 120,000 up to 300,000 ghosts, I call them. Those are the inactive voters that haven’t voted in a long time, but we still have to keep them on the registration rolls.”

The key to the new system is the bar code, which is found on voters’ driver’s licenses, Pate said that was the driving force behind the idea of the voter identification cards.

“The interesting thing is, over 93 percent of Iowa’s voters have a driver’s license,” Pate said. “We mailed out the voter ID card to those that didn’t. It was sent out in December. We sent out over 120,000 and we got 15,000 back. We’ve identified about 9,000 to 10,000 potential forwarding addresses, so we’re redirecting them and mailing them again saying, ‘It appears you’ve moved. Would you like to re-register?’

Because the cards do not have a photo on them, he said this is not a photo ID bill. It is simply another way to identify voters at the polls so they are able to get in and vote.

“Voter registration did not change,” Pate said. “There’s a lot of confusion on that. When we talk to our voters and activists, they need to understand nothing has changed on voter registration. I think we’re the leading state in that arena. We still have same day voter registration. We’re still very generous on our absentee balloting. We’re in the top 10 in the nation for that. We’re in the top five or six and sometimes even higher when you look at voter participation. Voter registration-wise, we’re over 90 percent. Ninety-three percent of all eligible voters are registered in the state of Iowa.”

This year will be a soft roll out of the new system. Pate said the plan is to take a lot of notes and make any adjustments that need to be made in order to make voting a better experience for residents.

“Let’s make it easy for you on election day," he said. "Everyone who shows up will have a chance to vote, but why don’t we make it easier for them? We’re not here to make it harder.”

©2018 the Creston News Advertiser (Creston, Iowa) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.