Truly a Solution in Search of a Problem

By Bill Brauch

Secretary Pate received kudos for vouching for the integrity of Iowa’s voting process in response to Trump’s voter fraud claims during the fall election. But his new proposed voter photo ID bill reveals his true colors. His proposal represents extreme partisanship, through and through.

In my years working to protect consumers in the Attorney General’s Office, legislators demanded evidence supporting the need for our legislative proposals. They were right to do so. But Mr. Pate has offered nothing in support of his legislation other than national polling showing the supposed popularity of photo ID voter requirements. I am sure there are a lot of popular ideas the Legislature could consider in any given session, but that doesn’t mean they are good ideas or worthy of enactment. Rather, proposed legislation should have to pass a cost-benefit analysis. If costs exceed benefits, the legislation should probably fail.

Since voter fraud is virtually non-existent in Iowa, as Pate has acknowledged, any potential benefits of his proposal are minor. But the costs would be extreme. A whole new bureaucratic process would have to be put in place at taxpayer expense to handle the demand for acceptable non-driver license ID’s and for checking them at voting sites. As noted in a Bleeding Heartland post, Pate’s estimate that 7% of Iowa’s registered voters don’t have an Iowa driver’s license means about 150,000 Iowa voters will need to obtain a new ID in order to vote.  Pate estimated the taxpayer cost of this new voter ID requirement at $1/2 million.

Think about what this would mean for older Iowans who no longer have a valid driver’s license.  In addition, if you are one of the many Iowa college students lacking an Iowa driver’s license these requirements will be even more difficult.  Pate says his legislation will allow registered voters to apply to his office and be sent a free “voter ID card.”  But, the devil is in the details.  What will it require?  How will this card differ from the voter cards we already receive? How will his office confirm the requesting party is who they say they are?  In fact, sending these ID cards out in the mail in response to simple requests would create opportunities for voter fraud that aren’t possible under current law.  If this new voter card lacks a photo, what’s the point in doing any of this? Mr. Pate can’t have it both ways.  Also, this would effectively end same-day registration for non-registered Iowa voters lacking driver’s licenses.  Folks, this is not the Iowa way!

Having to analyze signatures on absentee ballots as Pate has also proposed would impose a further unnecessary expense. If Pate’s bill passes, taxpayers will be on the hook. But the costs of this proposal can’t just be measured in dollars. As has happened in other states that enacted voter photo ID laws, many Iowa voters will effectively lose their most fundamental right as Americans – the right to vote.

Big cost and lost rights versus a virtually nonexistent benefit. It seems Mr. Pate has flunked not only his civics class, but basic math!

We have problems that our Legislature needs to address. Voter fraud is not a problem in Iowa. This bill deserves a quick trip to the recycling bin!


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