Read Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate's draft voter ID and election reform bills

The Legislative Services Agency has drafted three bills fleshing out Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s proposals on voter ID and other changes to election administration, such as signature verification and wider use of electronic poll books. Bleeding Heartland obtained copies of the documents, which I enclose below.

Important caveats:

These drafts are not the final versions of Pate’s bills.

The voter ID plan is consistent with Pate’s comments at an early January press conference and talking points the Secretary of State’s Office distributed the following week. As far as I can tell, these drafts have not incorporated feedback from the four county auditors who testified at a January 26 Iowa House hearing. Many election administrators have reservations about signature verification requirements as well as voter ID. Legislative staff may rewrite some provisions before the bills are assigned numbers and formally introduced in the Iowa House and Senate.

Republican lawmakers will alter Pate’s bills, if they run them at all.

Departmental bills often die in Iowa legislative committees. State Representative Ken Rizer and State Senator Roby Smith, who lead the State Government Committees in their respective chambers, told Barbara Rodriguez of the Associated Press last week “they’re working together on possible changes” to Pate’s plan. Rizer described the secretary of state’s recommendations as “a starting point for an election reform bill.” I expect Pate will end up playing “good cop,” with the “bad cops” in the House and Senate passing more restrictive ID requirements as well as steps to limit early voting, which Pate has not endorsed.

These bills do not yet come with a price tag.

Eventually, the Legislative Services Agency will produce a fiscal note estimating the cost of enacting each bill. Pate initially suggested his plans would require $1 million, roughly half to make electronic poll books universally available, and half to provide voter ID cards to about 140,000 registered Iowa voters lacking a driver’s license or other valid identification. More recently, he has said only about 85,000 current Iowa voters would need a new ID card to bring to the polls, reducing the cost to the state.

Election administrators, state legislators, attorneys, or others who wish to speak confidentially about any of Pate’s proposals can reach me at the e-mail address near the lower right corner of this page.

Here’s the most controversial bill, covering topics such as voter registration, absentee voting, new voter ID requirements, signature verification, post-election audits, and a revolving loan program designed to expand the use of electronic poll books. (About a quarter of Iowa’s 99 counties do not currently use that technology.)

Division II (pages 5 to 12) contains the language on “voter identity and signature verification.”

According to the summary provided by Legislative Services Agency staff near the end of the document, this second bill “relates to the conduct of elections, including general election ballot vacancies, voter registration, elections administration, absentee voting, and vacancies on school boards and merged area governing boards.”

The shortest bill would make it easier to consolidate precincts and would allow precinct boundary changes for some local elections one additional time per decade. It would also allow pilot programs related to election administration, which could last no longer than two election cycles.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Here comes the bait and switch. Senate File 47, introduced by Republican Senator Brad Zaun earlier this month, would require a photo ID for all in-person voters. Pate has said he would lobby lawmakers against a photo ID bill. His office wants a law that can survive or avoid a court challenge. Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott told Iowa House members last week,

“The photo is the least effective way to identify a voter. People have cancer. People have been on meth,” Parrott says. “People change over a 10-year period….Poll workers have a difficult time as it is in the job that they do. They don’t need to have the burden of trying to subjectively identify someone by a photo when that bar code will do it for them.”

Meanwhile, ten Iowa House Republicans are co-sponsoring House File 150, which would end same-day voter registration on election day and for Iowans casting absentee ballots in person. Under that bill, only people who were already registered to vote at least ten days before the election would be able to cast a ballot. John Deeth noted that same-day registrants already have to show ID, so the only reason to pass this bill is “pure vote suppression.” More than 5,000 people living in Johnson County registered to vote either on election day or during the final week of the 2016 campaign, according to Deeth (who works in the county elections office). The good news is that State Government Committee Chair Rizer is not among the co-sponsors.

LATER UPDATE: Pate’s central election reform bill was introduced as House Study Bill 93. If it clears Rizer’s committee, it will receive a new number.

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  • Lost Cards

    Am I supposed to have a voter card from the time I registered 25 years ago? Since it is not required, I have never used it when I have voted. I do not know what became of it.

    The poll workers always knew me anyway.

    • I think people can request replacements

      which will drive up the cost considerably.

      In theory, if you have a driver’s license, this should not affect you. In theory, if your county auditor sees that you are a registered voter who doesn’t have a valid driver’s license, you will be sent a new voter ID card for free. Many people will misplace those before the next election, though.