DES MOINES - Iowans would be required to show a photo ID to vote under a proposal approved by the House State Government Committee.
The change is necessary to protect the integrity of elections, said House File 8 floor manager Rep. Renee Schulte, R-Cedar Rapids. Current law allows election officials to ask for a photo ID, but the proposal will remove that subjectivity from state law.
"It won't matter whether you are known or unknown," she told the committee, which voted 15-8 on Thursday to send the bill to the full House, where it may be debated next week. "It won't matter whether the poll workers know you."
Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, called it "a bill in search of a problem" and warned some people will not be allowed to vote if it becomes law.
Others questioned the constitutionality of the plan, but Schulte and Doug Struyk of the Secretary of State's Office said the proposal mirrors state law in Indiana, which has been vetted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The proposal requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot at polling places on Election Day or when casting an absentee ballot at a county auditor's office or satellite voting station. Likewise, a voter would have to produce a photo ID to register to vote on Election Day.
Election officials must challenge any voter who refuses or cannot produce the necessary identification. A challenged voter may vote by provisional ballot. For the ballot to be counted, the voter must produce proof of identity no later than the Monday after the election.
It also makes changes in the law that allows people to submit a written oath of residency and identity or have a registered voter vouch for them
To avoid any cost to voters without government-issued IDs, the bill provides that the Iowa Department of Public Health could not charge for a copy of a birth certificate for anyone who submits an affidavit they need it to get a non-operator's ID card from the Department of Transportation. The DOT could not charge for proof of ID for voting purposes.
Opponents say requiring a photo ID creates new barriers to voting. According to the League of Women Voters, voter ID laws have a "profoundly negative" effect on the voting rates of minorities, low-income Iowans, older Iowans and people with disabilities. The League also said 11 percent of all Americans do not have government-issued photo IDs.
Voter fraud is rare, according to election officials. Nationally, only 24 people were convicted of voter fraud between 2002 and 2005.
However, Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said the precautions are the same as those called for to buy alcohol, cigarettes, pseudoephedrine or forward mail.
Schulte and Struyk conceded voter fraud is rare. However, Struyk said safeguards are needed for the same reason people lock their houses or cars - "not because you have been broken into, but because you don't want to have someone break in."
Requiring a photo ID, he said, "is just another lock on the system" to maintain the integrity of voting in Iowa.
Requiring a photo ID is "not new, not cutting edge," Schulte said. Twenty-seven other states have some form of voter ID laws. Only two require a photo ID.
"If there were a concern that this disenfranchised voters, I'm sure the Supreme Court would have jumped on it," he said.
He rejected the suggestion that the plan would disenfranchise any voter. Now, any voter can be asked to produce an ID. That discretion would be eliminated and every voter would be treated alike so any allegations of racial profiling would be removed, Struyk said.
Fourteen Republicans and one Democrat supported the bill. Eight Democrats opposed it.
"I don't want to put impediments between voters and their vote," former county auditor Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, said, explaining her opposition.