The Iowa House of Representatives debated a contentious voter identification bill into the evening Wednesday as Democrats fought changes they say would disenfranchise voters. Debate was ongoing, but Republicans hold a strong majority in the chamber and are expected to approve the measure. “Voter ID is a commonsense reform that makes it easier to vote, harder to cheat and nobody is turned away,” said the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids. If approved, House File 516 would make numerous changes to the state’s election laws that Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says are needed to ensure the integrity of the process and prevent fraud. Among them is a provision that would require every voter to present government-issued identification at the poll on Election Day, which Democrats argued would disproportionately hurt voter turnout among minority people, elderly people, disabled people and others.
“I think the bottom line that we have to ask ourselves is: Does this bill make voting easier or harder?” asked Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington. “I think it makes it harder, and that is not good for Iowa.”
Under the proposal, valid forms of ID would include driver’s licenses and non-operators licenses issued by the state Department of Transportation, as well as passports and military ID cards. Those forms of ID all include photos, and the bill allows poll workers to challenge voters who don’t look like their photo.
The bill also would allow Iowans to use free voter cards issued by the state and county auditors’ offices that would not include a photo.