Make elections more efficient, not less

After weeks of speculation and hype, Iowans finally have gotten their first look at Secretary of State Paul Pate’s voter ID bill.

We think his proposal — to require all voters to show an Iowa driver’s license, state-issued ID, passport, military or veteran ID, or “voter verification card” before voting — is expensive and unnecessary.

Iowa’s elections are widely recognized, even by Pate, as having exceptionally high integrity. There is no reason to make the process more complicated, especially at the risk of confusing or disenfranchising voters.

We agree with Pate that the state always should seek ways to improve and update election processes. We like his proposal to set up a fund for no-interest loans to help more counties purchase precinct-level electronic poll books, which are more efficient than paper and help reduce errors on Election Day.

In a separate bill, he proposes allowing multiprecinct voting centers in primary and general elections. This already is an option in city and school board elections, and could help control costs.

Voter ID, on the other hand, won’t come cheap. It would almost certainly create confusion and delay at the polls.

Pate initially projected $500,000 would be needed to implement voter ID cards, later reducing this estimate. But Pate’s estimates are based on currently registered voters, not the number of eligible voters who lack an ID. Other states enacting voter ID requirements have spent millions on the change.

And for what? Iowa elections are celebrated as one of the nation’s most voter-friendly. Relatively speaking, Iowa boasts high voter turnout. Previous investigations have found statistically insignificant instances voter fraud. The majority of those cases can be attributed to errors, not nefarious intent.

Pate agrees with those statements, says these reforms aren’t in reaction to existing fraud. He holds that Iowa elections have long been underfunded, that there is need for election equipment upgrades and technological advances. We generally agree. Lawmakers should incentivize electronic poll books and adopt other efficiencies that make the process easier, not more difficult. Skip the voter ID.

There simply is no justification for a new, expensive voter identification system, especially at a time when lawmakers are wrestling with commitments that outpace revenues.

And especially one that will make it more complicated for Iowans to exercise their right to vote.

• Comments: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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