Linn County supervisors got Iowa elections bill wrong

It is disappointing to see the Linn County Board of Supervisors and the media spreading false information about the proposed Election Modernization and Integrity Act. Even worse is the false assertion that the bill would force Linn County supervisors to raise taxes on hardworking Linn County families. None of the media outlets covering the supervisors’ meeting Monday bothered to double-check the information they received or tried to tell the other side of the story.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors argues it will be forced to raise tax rates to pay for the costs associated with House File 516, currently under consideration in the Legislature. This is false.

According to The Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Board of Supervisors was told House File 516 would force them to buy more than $300,000 in new e-poll books. However, nothing in the bill mandates e-poll books for Linn or any other county. What it does do is create a revolving loan fund, which will be funded with state dollars, to help those counties who want to modernize their elections system. If Linn County prefers not to modernize or not to borrow from the revolving loan fund, that is their choice. There is no mandate either way.

This bill protects the integrity of the vote and ensures no voter is disenfranchised. Every voter who does not already have an ID will receive one for free, automatically. The new voter registration cards, for those 5 percent of Iowa’s registered voters who do not have a driver’s license or non-operator ID, will be paid for by the state, not the counties. Future voter acknowledgment cards will be issued by the counties as they currently do, with no increase in expense. No eligible voter will be turned away. If our supervisors want to increase property taxes, that is purely their decision. Nothing in this bill requires such a drastic measure.

The fact that the e-poll books are not mandated has been shared with county auditors on numerous occasions. Additionally, Linn County greatly overstates the price of the e-poll books. We estimate they would cost approximately $190,000 for Linn County, not $300,000. The standard e-poll book costs $870 per set. Linn County already owns 61 partial sets.

If the Linn County Board of Supervisors does not want to update its elections technology, that is up to them. The Iowa State Association of County Auditors and Iowa League of Women Voters overwhelmingly favor the use of e-poll books statewide because they expedite the process and decrease the potential for human error and fraud.

Linn County would be wise to embrace this technology and if they do, the state will help defray the cost with a revolving loan fund. The $190,000 amounts to just 0.18 percent of the county’s $105 million budget. Raising property taxes to pay for this would be unnecessary, but if that is the route the Board of Supervisors takes, they should take responsibility for their actions and stop the partisan distortions for political gain. The people of Linn County deserve better.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate

Rep. Ken Rizer, House District 68

Rep. Ashley Hinson, House District 67

Rep. Louie Zumbach, House District 95

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