Iowa’s voter ID bill crossed another hurdle Thursday when it passed the Senate on a party-line vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats plus one independent opposed.
The bill has already passed the House but it now goes back there because it was amended by the Senate. It’s expected to pass the House again and to be signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican.
“No eligible voter will be denied their right to vote by this legislation,” Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, who initiated the bill, said during testimony Thursday. “I’m adamant about that fact, and will fight to ensure voters are not disenfranchised. If you do not already have a form of ID, we will give you one for free, automatically.”
I guess we’ll see how that works out. But officials from Wisconsin and Texas made similar promises about their own strict ID laws, and both states, like Iowa, created free IDs for those who didn’t have them (Texas at first tried to charge for theirs, but made it free after it became clear that charging a fee could make the law harder to defend in court). Yet there’s no question that significant numbers of voters in both states were nonetheless unable to get ID. That’s because even applying for a free ID required voters to present underlying documents and take time out of their schedules, neither of which some could easily do.
And that’s not to mention the unknowable number who were disenfranchised because they simply weren’t aware of the requirement. That problem could be even worse in Iowa because, as we reported last month, the state currently plans to spend less than half as much as either of those other two states to educate the public about the law.
An AP report last month found that Pate’s office was notified of ten potentially improper votes out of 1.6 million cast in the November election. After that election, Pate declared that Iowa has “one of the cleanest, best election systems in the country.”