Last month, nearly 6,000 people in Dallas County were informed their votes in the November election were not counted. Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate chalked it up to a “human error,” a human error that disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters.
The same secretary of State has now proposed legislation that would suppress voter turnout and make it more difficult for Iowans to vote. Most of the attention on Pate’s bill has been on the Voter ID requirement, but HF 516 contains a laundry list of voter suppression efforts. In addition to narrowing opportunities for absentee and early voting, the bill also mandates signature verification at the polls. This means that the election day official — almost always a temporary employee with minimal training — will have the power to refuse a voter if the voter’s signature doesn’t sufficiently match the signature on file. This will only magnify “human error” and will result in eligible voters being turned away, especially those whose health affects their handwriting.
By limiting absentee voting and enforcing signature verification, the bill will disproportionately keep seniors from exercising their fundamental voting rights. Moreover, 15 percent of Iowa seniors don’t have a state-issued ID. They will be turned away from the polls under Pate’s voter ID provision. This is not an accident. After the Branstad/Reynolds administration waged war on Iowa’s elderly and disabilities community with Medicaid privatization, now Paul Pate wants to silence their voices and make it more difficult for Iowa seniors to vote out incompetent lawmakers.
In January, Iowa Republicans passed $60 million in budget cuts that will result in higher tuition rates, layoffs for public employees and less safe communities. Now, Pate is asking taxpayers to fund a voter ID plan that could cost the state up to $300,000. The catalyst behind HF 516 is strictly partisan in nature and intended to drive down voter turnout among college students, minorities and seniors, all voting blocs that traditionally vote Democrat. Think this is an exaggeration? Ask why not a single college ID in the state will be able to satisfy the voter ID requirement.
HF 316 has been fast-tracked in the legislature, and will likely become law. When it does, it will be challenged by civil rights activists. This past summer, an appellate court in North Carolina struck down a similar Voter ID law as unconstitutional. As of June, Texas had spent $3.5 million defending its voter ID law in court. If Pate’s bill passes, Iowans will spend years paying for Pate’s political vendetta against Iowa voters.
There’s a reason county auditors of both parties oppose this bill. Iowa already ranks near the top when it comes to election operation. A non-partisan group rates Iowa’s system second –as it stands today in the country -- for ballot access and integrity.
Republicans love to preach the narrative that they’re the party of patriotism. I can think of nothing more unpatriotic than making it more difficult for a disabled World War II veteran to vote. And that is exactly what Pate’s “Election Integrity Bill” aims to do.
This isn’t human error. It’s a deliberate attempt by Paul Pate, our secretary of State, to take the right to vote away from his political opponents. We urge all Iowans to contact the secretary of State’s office and Republican lawmakers and urge them to stop politicizing the voting process.