Iowa set to keep voters in the dark on new ID law

Iowa looks set to be the next state to impose voter ID, after an ID bill passed the House Thursday on a party line vote. It’s expected to sail through the Republican-controlled Senate, and to be signed by Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican. 

Here’s where the law breaks new ground in throwing up obstacles to would-be voters: According to a legislative analysis, Iowa is expecting to spend just $50,000 on its campaign to let the public know about the new rules, and to train poll workers on how to apply them. 

To put that in perspective, the state spent three times as much last year to renovate and repair the Fort Des Moines Museum. A worthy cause, we’re sure, but perhaps less urgent than ensuring people know what they need to vote.

Or compare to other states. Texas last year spent about 17 cents per registered voter on its voter ID public education campaign—and numerous reports suggested there was still widespread confusion at the polls. Wisconsin spent about 8 cents per registered voter, and a federal judge called that insufficient and ordered it to be raised. “I think the problem here is a lack of information,” said the judge. Iowa is proposing to spend about 2.3 cents per registered voter—and, unlike in the two other states, that’s supposed to cover not just educating voters, but also the crucial task of making sure poll workers are trained in how to apply the law on the ground.  

“Just one mailing to all registered voters would cost $1 million,” state Rep. Amy Nielsen, a Democrat, told The Daily Democracy. “Not only are we underestimating the cost of properly educating our electorate on a major overhaul of our voting system, there is no appropriation for any of it. [Bill sponsor] Rep. [Ken] Rizer just wrote a big check that his word can’t cash.”

We asked Rizer for a response, but didn’t hear back. We’ll update this post if he responds.

In last fall’s election, the state found just ten improper votes out of 1.6 million cast. (And only a fraction of those ten likely would have been blocked by the ID requirement.) 
For good measure, the bill also eliminates straight-ticket voting, likely leading to longer wait times at the polls, especially in minority communities where straight-ticket voting is popular.

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