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Iowa Secretary of State advocates voter ID bill

August 27, 2011
By MIKE MALLOY - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

"May I see your ID?"

That questioned would be asked of Iowa voters if a bill sponsored by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz becomes law.

Schultz, a Republican, spoke at Cecil's Cafe Friday afternoon to the Pachyderm Club a Republican social group and said he intends to push a bill requiring photo identification during next year's legislative session.

Article Photos

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Cathey Rains, left, and Mary Austin, right, absentee voting officials, wait in an empty polling place during early voting at the Oklahoma County Board of Elections in Oklahoma City Aug 8, 2011. The election was the first state election since nearly 75 percent of Oklahoma voters approved the voter ID law in November. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is proposing a similar law here.

"You have to show an ID before you get on an airplane, you have to show an ID before you open a checking account, and if you like beer you have to show ID before you buy a beer so why not when you vote?" Schultz said.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported in July that 14 states require photo ID to vote and 16 others require a non-photo ID to do so. Iowa requires neither.

Schultz said he does not want to disenfranchise voters, but rather wants to assure that results are accurate.

"What I'm trying to do is make sure we're having fair and honest elections. That's not to say we're not having them, but there's a door open and I don't want to invite the burglar in. We know that there's an element of our society that is a criminal element that is willing to do things," Schultz said.

Marshall County Auditor Dawn Williams, a Republican, attended the meeting and said in her 22 years with the auditor's office, many of which she oversaw elections, that she's only seen one confirmed case of voter fraud.

"There are so many different checks and balances. Is it a perfect system? No. Is there widespread fraud? No, absolutely not," Williams said.

She was uncertain if she would support Schultz' effort, saying she wanted to see the final bill before endorsing or rejecting.

Opponents feel such a requirement would deny voting to those without identification.

A 2006 study, conducted by pollster Opinion Research and sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, found that 11 percent of U.S. citizens did not have a government-issued photo ID. Certain groups, the study found, had a higher percentage those Age 65 and older (18 percent), voting-age African Americans (25 percent), those making less then $35,000 a year (15 percent).

It also reported that 18 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds have a photo ID with incorrect information such as their address seven percent of citizens lack proof of citizenship and 34 percent of voting-age women do not have access to any official document that reflects their married name.

"We don't have those kinds of numbers in Iowa," Schultz said.

The bill would provide a free ID for voting purposes, and would grant the ability of one voter with ID to vouch for one other person without proof. Schultz said inclusion of those provisions would make the bill "bulletproof" to potential court challenges.

The League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP have come out against voter identification bills, but polls indicate many voters support ID efforts.

In May, a Minnesota Star-Tribune poll showed 80 percent of Minnesotans favor efforts there to require proof of eligibility there, and Rasmussen Reports polling in June showed 75 percent support nationally for such a requirement.

Forms of identification, though can be tampered with, and people who are not allowed to vote, such as convicted felons and non-citizens in the country on a visa, would have the ability to get a driver's license or other form of identification.

"Those issues can not be addressed solely by the ID," Schultz said.

Schultz said in addition to a photo ID, he would like to see all counties have access to an electronic database called a poll book, that would enable election officials to swipe an ID, like a credit card, and determine if a person has voting rights.

Schultz said he did not know the added cost of providing free ID or pollbooks, but did not feel like the expense would be prohibitive.

"Parry" count unknown

Schultz, who attended the Aug. 13 GOP straw poll, said he did not know the number of people, inspired by comedian Stephen Colbert, who intentionally misspelled Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name.

Colbert, through his Colbert Super PAC, aired television ads leading up to the vote encouraging people to vote for Rick "Parry". "That's A for America", the ad joked.

The state Republican Party, though, has not released the number of people that did so, and Schultz said he did not know. People doing so, though, had their votes count for Perry.

"When people make misspellings, our laws require that they go with the legitimate person. Some people spelled Sarah Palin P-A-L-Y-N, and some people spelled Rick Perry, P-E-R-Y, and those votes went to (Perry)," Schultz said.

Perry, who was not on the ballot, received 718 write-in votes and finished sixth.

There were 218 "scattered" votes which included support for Iowa State Fair butter cow and Iowa State men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg.



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