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Local

State, local officials prepare for new voter ID law

More than 123,000 Iowans will be receiving new voter identification cards that were mailed out this week, the Secretary of State’s office announced on Monday.

The cards, intended for Iowans who do not have a valid photo ID, are part of the state’s efforts to enforce a new voter ID law passed this year by the Iowa legislature.

Dennis Parrott, Jasper County’s auditor, said it wasn’t clear how many residents in Jasper County would receive the cards, although he said he believes the percentage is small. Statewide, the 123,000 cards, created at a cost of $79,000 represent only 6 percent of registered voters in the state. In a statement released on Monday Secretary of State Paul Pate said, “It should be easy to vote, but hard to cheat, and that’s what this new law ensures.”

While voter fraud is a concern, Parrott said he hasn’t seen any indication voter fraud is a problem in Jasper County.

Voters are already used to showing their driver’s licenses in the county when they vote — the auditor’s office is one of 72 counties statewide that uses a computer program called Precinct Atlas, which scans the barcode on the back of the license to pull up voter information when residents come in to vote. Parrott said he estimates nearly 95 percent of voters come into polling places with their license out, ready to scan.

“I don’t believe that photo ID is necessary because of this process, we knew we already had better technology than the photos, we had the information on the back of the license,” Parrott said.

Voters without an ID card, or a valid photo ID will still be allowed to vote in 2018, providing they sign an affidavit, but in 2019 voters will be required to have a resident who lives in their precinct attest for them in order for them to be allowed to cast a ballot. Changes in the state law allow an individual to attest to two voters next year, previously they had only been able to able to attest to a single voter. Without someone to verify their identity, they will only be able to cast a provisional ballot, which requires the voter to present a valid photo ID before the Monday following election day. The legislation also shortened the early voting period, from 40 days to 29 days and eliminated straight-ticket voting from ballots.

The law has faced tough criticism, with many claiming that it disenfranchises the elderly and minority voters, many of whom may not have a valid photo ID. Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, said he’s concerned there will be confusion over the new law, and the process will make it tougher for some residents to vote.

“These are the concerns that I’ve had, they’ve had a system in place where they can vote for years,” Breckenridge said. “Even if there’s only one person that gets disenfranchised in Jasper County, their voice isn’t being heard.”

Thad Nearmyer, chair of the Jasper County Republican Party, said he doesn’t believe the new law will disenfranchise voters. Nearmyer said he doesn’t know of anyone living in Jasper County that doesn’t have a valid photo ID, and he brushed aside Breckenridge’s criticism.

“I’ve heard Wes [Breckenridge] say it says disenfranchises the elderly and people of color, and I say there’s no way that’s possible,” Nearmyer said. “Why are they not able to have a state-issued ID, Democrats makes it sound like there’s a huge amount of people but I don’t know who they are.”

Breckenridge and Nearmyer may differ on whether or not the law disenfranchises voters, but they can agree that voter fraud isn’t a problem in Jasper County. Nearmyer said he doesn’t believe there’s much, if any voter fraud in the county, something that Breckenridge believes as well.

“Voter fraud isn’t an issue in Jasper County, the auditor’s office does an outstanding job, the process is smooth and efficient,” Breckenridge said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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