Schultz, Miller discuss Iowa voting issues

Officials consider future of voting by mail, GOP straw poll

DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Thursday he would be willing to expand Iowa’s voting laws by allowing everyone to vote by mail if they so choose.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has indicated he may ask state lawmakers to consider implementing a signature-verification system given that nearly half of Iowans who voted in the Nov. 6 general election did so by voting early or casting absentee ballots.

He has said he is exploring the possibility of establishing a system in Iowa modeled after Oregon and Washington that would use a machine to read a signature on an absentee ballot envelope and verify it by matching it with the voter’s signature on registration records, but he wants his bipartisan election advisory panel to weigh in before he proceeds any further.

Miller, a Democrat who appeared with Republican Schultz on Iowa Public Television’s "Iowa Press" show, said verification systems in Oregon and Washington seem to work and he would be willing to consider going to a 100 percent vote-by-mail process that currently exists in those states.

"But I think if we start down that road, we should look at the total package in Washington and Oregon and really consider voting by mail, not in the polling place, that 100 percent of the vote would be by mail as they do in Oregon and Washington, so I’d be willing to consider that overall package," he said.

Schultz indicated he did not support going that far "at this time," saying he enjoys going to the polls on Election Day and would like to keep that option in place.

"I haven’t proposed anything yet. All I’ve said is when you have almost half of the people in Iowa voting by absentee or my mail, that’s something we should be looking at," said Schultz, who serves the dual role of state commissioner of elections.

"We have a good election system, but it’s not perfect, and we just want to make sure that people aren’t cheating, so my goal is to do those kinds of things to make sure we have honest integrity, but also protect voters’ rights," the secretary said.

Schultz said he still favors instituting a photo identification requirement for voters — an issue where Miller said he would "part company" with the secretary of state because he has not seen evidence demonstrated of voter fraud that would warrant that requirement.

On other topics, both Schultz and Miller were non-committal about their 2014 election plans, but Schultz ruled out a GOP bid to unseat Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in two years, and Miller indicated he likely would not be moving to Washington to take a federal post in the Obama administration once the president is inaugurated for a second term in January.

Asked about the future of the Republican Party of Iowa’s presidential straw poll held in Ames the summer before the state’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, Schultz likened the straw poll event to the "State Fair of Iowa politics," but said he would defer a decision on its future to party officials, even though he enjoys attending it every four years.

Miller said Iowa Democrats used to hold a similar fundraising event but scrapped it and felt that Iowa Republicans should "get rid of" their straw poll.

"I think it’s a terrible mistake for the Republican Party," Miller said. "It’s an exploitation of the candidates at a time when they’re just really starting to put together their organizations."

Miller praised the job that Sue Dvorsky did as chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party and spoke highly of Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, who will replace her when she exits the post when her term ends soon.

"I’m a big Tyler Olson fan," he said. "He has tremendous potential in our party and for our state in one way or another."



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