Friday, March 3, 2017

Iowa Controversial Voter ID Bill Would Hurt Out-of-State Students

A controversial Bill that would require Iowans to show Voter Identification at the Polls cleared an Iowa Senate Subcommittee Wednesday, though the measure is being widely criticized for potentially preventing particular Groups from Voting.

Ambassadors with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a Nonpartisan Organization that works to promote Young Voices in Democracy, wrote a letter this week voicing opposition to the Legislation, Senate Bill 1163, saying it would “erect significant barriers to out-of-state college students’ eligibility to vote in Iowa.”

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate launched an Initiative in September to increase Voter Turnout among College Students, dubbed the Iowa College Voter Engagement Drive, encouraging more than 300,000 College Students in Iowa to Vote.

But the proposed Bill would affect approximately 32,200 Out-of-State Students attending four-year Public Universities and 25,500 Out-of-State Students attending Private, Nonprofit Colleges and Universities.

Opponents said Out-of-State Students would run into barriers when Registering to Vote because many of them use a Lease Agreement, which is a formal Document between the Institution and the Student, and the County Auditor accepts the documentation as proof that a Student is a valid Iowa Resident for Voter-Registration purposes.

The Legislation would require Students to obtain an Iowa Driver’s License, an Iowa Non-Operator ID, Military ID, U.S. Passport or newly issued Voter ID to Vote.

Pate acknowledged there is little evidence of Voter Fraud in Iowa, but that a Voter ID Bill is needed to ensure Integrity in the State’s Election System.

The full letter here:

Dear Chair Rizer and Ranking Member Mascher:

As Vote Everywhere Ambassadors with the Andrew Goodman Foundation at Simpson College, we would like to express our concerns about the “election integrity” legislation proposed by Secretary of State Paul Pate (House Study Bill 93 and Senate File 47). All three of us come from different ideological backgrounds and other states, yet we all chose to attend college in Iowa for the tremendous opportunities to become active in politics and public policy that other states cannot match. We have joined together in a strictly nonpartisan manner to explain how this proposed legislation will impact the ability of college students in Iowa -- particularly out-of-state students -- to register and vote in Iowa elections.

In determining the effectiveness of this legislation we must ask ourselves: do the benefits of “election integrity” outweigh the costs of preventing out-of-state college students from voting? We are concerned that this legislation, as proposed, will erect significant barriers to out-of-state college students’ eligibility to vote in Iowa.

This past election cycle, we worked directly with local party officials, county auditors, and Secretary Pate himself to encourage voter engagement among college students of all ideologies and party affiliations. In Iowa, approximately 32,200 students attending four-year public universities are from out-of-state, making up nearly 39% of overall enrollment. Moreover, approximately 25,000 students attending Iowa’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities are from out-of-state, accounting for 51% of total enrollment.

We are concerned that out-of-state college students will be not be able to prove their Iowa residency for the purpose of registering to vote. Currently, many students use a lease agreement to prove their Iowa residency to register to vote. This lease agreement is a formal document between the college/university and the student, which the county auditor accepts as proof that a student is a valid Iowa resident for voter registration purposes. Senate File 47 would change this process and make lease agreements no longer valid proof of residency. In other words, out-of-state students living in campus housing would not be able to prove their residency, and therefore would not be able to register to vote in Iowa.

Moreover, even if a new out-of-state college student is able to prove their residency and register to vote, many would be unable to prove their identity to vote at the polls. This legislation would require these students to obtain an Iowa driver’s license, Iowa non-operator ID, military ID, U.S. passport, or newly issued voter ID - just so they can vote at the polls. Many out-of-state students do not have the money to pay for another drivers license, do not have a car, do not have a non-operator ID, are not in the military, or do not carry a U.S. passport. Although no out-of-state college student in the state of Iowa has ever been charged with voter fraud, these students will face more difficulties in voting if this legislation is passed.

According to the Des Moines Register, The Iowa State Association of County Auditors (ISACA), the group responsible for implementing this legislation if passed, is on record opposing the legislation due in part to the voter ID requirements. Clearly, Secretary Pate’s Voter ID Plan, which is opposed by the ISACA, will not bring about “election integrity” and does not justify the voter suppression of out-of-state college students.

Overall, this legislation will either discourage out-of-state college students from voting, or disenfranchise out-of-state college students from voting. Regardless, this legislation says to out-of-state students: although you will live in Iowa, contribute to the Iowa economy, and be a part of the Iowa educational system for at least the next four years, you cannot vote, or at least you will have to obtain additional documentation in order to vote in the state of Iowa.

Thank you for taking our concerns into account as the State Government Committee of the Iowa House of Representatives considers HSB 93.


Olivia Anderson, Danielle Bates, and Tegan Jarchow
Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Ambassadors, Simpson College

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