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Photo ID to vote? Unnecessary, says auditor

Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:44 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, March 1, 2011 2:38 p.m. CST

Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott is standing united with all other county auditors in Iowa to oppose a law championed by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz that would require a photo identification to vote in Iowa. Although the law appears to be dead for this legislative session, Schultz is indicating that he doesn’t plan to let the issue die a permanent death.

House File 95 would require a person to produce a photo ID when voting at the polls. No county auditor in the state of Iowa, which includes 60 Republicans, 38 Democrats and one independent, was in favor of the bill. Although the purpose of the bill is to prevent voter fraud, Parrott said voter fraud is not a problem in Iowa, and besides, the bill is seriously flawed and totally unnecessary.

Parrott says HF95 does not meet the requirements of federal election laws, specifically the Help America Vote Act, which passed in 2002. In addition, the bill fails to address absentee voting. If there is any potential for fraud in Jasper County, Parrott said, the potential would be in absentee voting. Currently, Iowa law allows a person to register to vote by mail, as well as vote absentee by mail, without ever having to produce any form of ID. This creates a double standard, Parrott says, and a requirement of a photo ID to vote in person will encourage more and more voters to go the absentee route when voting.

Parrott said he takes pride in serving as an election administrator in a state with good laws and a strong history of fair and impartial elections.

“The people of Jasper County know me and know that I have their best interest at heart,” Parrott said. “Everyone knows that I treat Democrats, Republicans and independents equally and give them all the best that my office has to give.”

When the auditors learned that Secretary of State Schultz wanted to implement a photo ID requirement to vote, Parrott, as one of two legislative liaisons for the Iowa Association of County auditors, joined five other county auditors on a fact-finding mission to Florida and Indiana last January to investigate the issue of photo ID. Those two states have enacted photo ID legislation; Florida was prompted by massive voter fraud in absentee ballots; and Indiana’s legislature saw the photo ID as necessary for security of the election process.

Following the auditors’ trip, they produced the results of their fact-finding mission. Since 2005, the report concluded, Indiana has spent $2.2 million on voter outreach and education, while Florida officials did not report any problems with implementation of the new law, which took effect in 2001. Missouri is expected to spend about $17 million over three years, and the Minnesota legislature shows it will cost them about $19 million for education and outreach.

In addition to the added costs, Parrott said, the photo ID requirement is unnecessary to prevent voter fraud. Jasper County began using laptop computers equipped with the Precinct Atlas Program to check voters at the polls. Forty-nine other counties in Iowa also use the program. Precinct Atlas contains all of the vital information about voters registered in Jasper County to verify their true identity. Poll workers are provided with the voter’s birth date, address, telephone number, the last four digits of their Social Security number, a driver’s license number, and whether that person is a convicted felon.

If a voter shows up at the wrong polling place to vote, the program prints out a label with the address of the voter’s correct precinct and polling place.

“With this information, it would be extremely difficult for a person to pass themselves off as someone else to vote,” Parrott said. “Plus, we have a policy of selecting poll workers to work elections in the precincts that they live, if at all possible. Our precinct workers are familiar with the voters of their precinct.”

Parrott also noted that there has never been anyone prosecuted in a voter fraud case in Iowa in which a person said that they were someone else to try to vote.

House File 95 would also create a “Catch-22” situation in Iowa as well. Free photo IDs would have to be given to everyone that did not have a driver’s license. In Iowa, a voter needs a certified birth certificate to obtain a free photo ID, but needs a photo ID in order to obtain a certified birth certificate. Parrott said it is estimated that in Iowa it would cost approximately $1.68 million per year for free photo IDs and free certified birth certificates.

“Elections are expensive to run. I would find it hard to have to pass these kinds of extra costs to my constituents,” Parrott said. “If I thought that there truly were people in Jasper County committing voter fraud by posing as another person to vote or that our current Precinct Atlas program was not sufficient to protect the integrity of our voting process at the polls, I would be the first person looking for a solution to solve the problem.”

Although House File 95 passed out of the House of Representatives on Jan. 27, by a vote of 60-40 along strict party lines, it is now languishing in a Senate Subcommittee, where it most certainly will die. Parrott said Schultz has not given up on the idea of photo ID requirements, however, and plans a tour of all 99 Iowa counties to drum up support for the requirement, evidently hoping that the public will talk their legislators into passing the bill during the next session.

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