ADEL — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate held a roundtable discussion in Adel on Thursday, May 17 about his new “Voter Ready” initiative. The hour-long event allowed election stakeholders, including voting precinct workers, a chance to learn about the new voter integrity election laws.
Before getting into that, however, he announced a change to the election law, which was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds the day before. The new law allows proof of residence documents to be provided in an electronic format, such as on a cell phone when they go to the polls to cast their votes on Election Day.
Pate’s new Election Integrity Law requires voters to display either their drivers’ license or a state-issued voter ID card, as well as proof of residence, such as a housing agreement, bank statements, utility bills, cell phone bills or paychecks, when they cast their vote, which Pate said is difficult for college students who have out-of-state drivers’ licenses and with a large number of people these days electing to receive their bills and bank statements online instead of in the mail.
“We’ve sat down with… college students and the administrative faculties to start thinking of ways to reach out to college students and this is one of the things that came up,” Pate said. “And clearly we’re glad we were able to pass the legislation to help those college students get that documentation put together and be successful when they go out to vote.”
Housing documents for college students must be placed on the college or university’s letterhead and must be contained in a separate, personalized PDF document and include the student’s full legal name, the dates of the housing agreement and full address.
Pate’s Election Integrity Law will allow those without an ID to sign an oath verifying their identity and cast a regular ballot in calendar year 2018, but starting in January of 2019, voters will be required to show a valid driver’s license, which Pate says 92 percent of voters have, or a voter ID card, which will be issued by the State, with a barcode.
Pate said that the voter ID law isn’t just about the integrity side and efficiency for the poll workers through being able to scan barcodes when voters check in.
“Dealing with manual lists is just overwhelming,” Pate said. “So, going to the technology side was a positive step, but the key to being able to do that is you needed an ID card of some sort with that barcode to activate it and make it work for us. That’s what was my key motivator.”
Additionally, Pate said that there is more to the integrity side of the law than just ID cards. He said that they are doing post-election audits to make sure everything was done correctly, working with Homeland Security on cybersecurity, and more.
“The one thing we cannot let happen is for public opinion to go to the point of saying ‘we don’t trust the system. We don’t believe the voting is legitimate,’” Pate said. “That’s what some of our enemies would like to see.
“When I see the Russian activity going on, that’s my opinion. They’re trying to undermine our confidence in our election system and we cannot let them do that. I do not want them to get to a point where a voter will say ‘that’s not our Governor, or that’s not our President,’ because somebody was messing with the system.”
In addition to requiring an ID at the polls, there is also a signature verification process, which is only used if a precinct worker believes a particular ID does not belong to the voter in question. Precinct workers, however, have been instructed to NOT reject a ballot based solely on signatures not matching and to take into account all of the information that is presented to them.
“Basically, you are only going to challenge a voter if you believe that ID belongs to someone else,” said Dawn Williams, Elections Director for the Secretary of State’s Office. “That’s a much higher standard than saying ‘oh that signature’s really sloppy and it doesn’t look like it was on the driver’s license.”
For more information on Voter Ready, visit www.voterreadyiowa.org.