Iowa has become the latest state to pass a voter ID requirement—part of a broader Republican-backed bill that restricts voting in the Hawkeye State and threatens to leave some voters in the dark about how to cast a ballot.
The state Senate voted 28-21 Thursday night to approve the voting measure, with all 28 Republicans voting yes and all 20 Democrats, plus one independent, voting no. Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill.
The bill, proposed and championed by Secretary of State Paul Pate, makes voting more difficult in other ways, too. It cuts the early voting period from 40 days to 29—though that’s still more time than most states offer. And it bans straight-ticket voting, a time-saving device in which voters push one button to select a party’s slate of candidates.
Evidence from other states suggests racial minorities are significantly more likely than whites to lack ID, to use early voting, and to use straight-ticket voting. A federal appeals court last year found that a North Carolina law that imposed an ID requirement, cut early voting, and eliminated same-day voter registration “target[ed] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Earlier this week, Iowa lawmakers rejected a Democratic amendment that would have softened the bill by expanding the list of acceptable IDs.
The bill’s backers have said it’s needed to combat fraud. But they’ve been unable to point to any cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud that the ID requirement would have stopped. Some supporters of the law have fallen back to arguing that it’s needed to combat the perception of fraud.
The state says it plans to mail free voter IDs to the 85,000 Iowans who records show are registered to vote but don’t have a driver’s license or non-driver’s ID. But the ACLU of Iowa notes that this does nothing for eligible voters who aren’t currently registered. They say 260,000 eligible Iowa voters don’t have an acceptable ID.
As we’ve reported, the state plans to spend just $50,000 to educate voters about the new law and to train poll workers. Other states that have spent much more have nonetheless appeared to leave many voters uninformed or misinformed.
A recent Des Moines Register poll found 69% of Iowans support requiring an ID to vote.