A proposed rule allowing Iowa residents to register to vote online would exclude anyone without a driver’s license or photo ID and must be fixed, voting rights advocates said Wednesday. The Iowa Voter Registration Commission began drafting a new rule in August that would allow prospective voters to register on the internet in addition to the paper registration process. “This is a great step that benefits 94 percent of the population of Iowa with minimal cost or any strains on the current system,” Charlie Smithson, a commission member, said Wednesday. The deadline for public comment was set for the day before Election Day in early November, prompting voting rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa to say the change was being pushed through too fast. They asked for a public hearing, which will be Dec. 30.
“Online voter registration is an important step that Iowa should take to expand access to voter registration and keep pace with our increasing use of the Internet, but it’s important for the state to take the time to ensure it is implemented in a fair and accessible way,” said the ACLU of Iowa’s legal director, Rita Bettis.
She said the rule would create a system unfairly excluding about 145,000 Iowa residents eligible to vote but who lack a driver’s license or an ID issued by the Department of Transportation. That is primarily the elderly, people with disabilities, minority voters, and low-income voters.