Guest Columnist

Lawmakers shouldn't gag Iowa voters

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A "Vote Here" sign is taped to a polling place window on school board election day at Iowa City West High School in Iowa City on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

We hope all Iowans will consider writing members of the Iowa Senate to request they toss, or at least revise, election proposals contained in Senate File 575.

What the Senate should do instead is to pass the House’s simpler, bipartisan election measure that resolves the problem of verifying late-arriving absentee ballots with the help of modern tracking technology.

The Senate is considering this measure now and, if approved, the bill will be considered by the House during the week of April 8.

The League of Women Voters of Iowa is monitoring this proposal closely, and other organizations have registered against it. Among them are the ACLU, LULAC, the Iowa Association of Auditors and the Iowa Association of Counties.

In section after section, revisions in the elections process are made in SF 575 to restrict Iowa voters’ access to the ballot box and, in some cases, set up purge list processes for later.

Three examples:

• Early voting will be banned in state taxpayer funded buildings. Whatever for? This is pure discrimination against hardworking Iowans who often have complicated shifts or work schedules in public institutions such as the one taxpayer-funded hospital in the state, the public universities, many sites in the state capital and satellite state offices, etc.

• Unnecessary purging mechanisms are put in place, allowing the redlining of voters who fail to vote in one presidential election, the redlining of any graduating college students who fail to return a form promising to live in Iowa, the redlining of supposed “duplicate” names inside or across state lines.

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We’re saddened to see Iowa make use of this already discredited cross-check system, a system its inventors urged states to use with caution. It “matches” duplicate but also near duplicate names.

Do our state senators doubt that people actually share the same names? People often change names in the course of their lifetimes. Sometimes official lists misspell people’s names. And yes, people move from one place to another and re-register to vote, and it’s up to local auditors to inform former auditors they have done so. None of these people should be redlined without their permission.

• The signature requirement crops up again in this bill as some magical final proof of identity, or as something just any old body can evaluate at a glance. Signatures change — injury or age can do this. Signatures count less than ever in this digital world. Only handwriting experts know how to evaluate signatures.

There’s much more that gives pause in this proposal. Those measures include tying the hands of local auditors who try to encourage early voting, threatening to take over local elections processes before or after elections, taking away auditors’ right to even add nonessential information on a registration form if it’s showing up in their records, forcing them to charge $250 for a list of registered voters.

Much should be purged and little is needed that is included in this grab bag of voter gag measures.

• Cathy Eisenhofer and Syndy Conger serve as co-presidents for the League of Women Voters of Johnson County.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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