Iowa Democrats Recieve Complaints From Voters In Three Counties About ID Law

Jun 7, 2018

According to the Iowa Democratic Party, voters in three counties reported issues related to the state’s new voter ID law. While the incidents were limited, there are concerns that confusion around the changes could impact future elections.

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The Iowa Democratic Party recieved three complaints from voters in Jones, Jasper and Iowa counties who said they tried to use a military ID or passport to get their ballot and faced resistance from poll workers. Party officials said ultimately the IDs were accepted and voters cast regular ballots. The complaints were made to the Voter Protection Hotline, which is managed by the Democratic National Committee.

The IDP also received a separate complaint from a voter in Johnson County who reported personal information from their ID card was read aloud publicly in a way that made them uncomfortable.

Under the new law, voters have to show a government-issued ID like a driver's license or voter card in order to get their ballot. Those who don't provide an ID can have another registered voter vouch for them, or cast a provisional ballot. Tuesday’s primary was the first election after the new rules went into effect.

On the whole, Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said his office received fewer complaints than he anticipated. With a turnout of 18,664 voters on Tuesday, Weipert recieved between seven and 10 complaints from voters, some of which were not related to the new ID law.

“I don’t really feel like in my heart of hearts that we personally disenfranchised anybody. But it’s still concerning as we lead up to November as we try to clean up these mistakes,” he said.

"I don't really feel like in my heart of hearts that we personally disenfranchised anybody. But it's still concerning as we lead up to November." - Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert

Weipert, who also heads the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, said it's a challenge to keep volunteer poll workers up to date on new protocols.

“Every citizen in Iowa needs to remember these poll workers sometimes maybe only work one or two elections a year. So all the training in the world, people forget. We train them upwards of a week, maybe two weeks in advance. People forget things,” Weipert said.

In Johnson County that preparation translates into an hour and a half training session in the weeks leading up to the election, Weipert said.

In response to reports of issues stemming from the rollout of the new law, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate's office released a written statement saying officials will continue to train poll workers.

All of these voters were able to cast a regular ballot and that is the most important goal.

The Secretary of State’s Office has provided extensive materials and training videos to county auditors to help train poll workers. The acceptable forms of identification are required to be posted at every precinct in the state.

Situations like these are exactly why Secretary Pate insisted on a soft rollout of the voter ID provisions in the Election Modernization and Integrity Act for 2018. It provides a learning curve for voters, poll workers and county auditors.

We will continue to work with all 99 county auditors to provide additional training for poll workers in advance of the November general election. The most important goal is that no eligible voter is turned away from the polls.

Speaking to reporters in Cedar Rapids in May, Pate said human error on the part of elections volunteers is a factor.

"We have to really strengthen our human side of the equation. When you talk about 99 counties, some are large and some are small. And they have diferent levels of resources," Pate said.

A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Iowa said the organization has not received any Election Day complaints from voters having issues with the new changes. Mary Rae Bragg with Iowa's League of Women Voters also said she has not recieved any complaints from voters.

Representatives from the Libertarian Party of Iowa, the Iowa Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and LULAC of Iowa did not respond to requests for comment at the time of this story's publishing.

As concerned as Weipert is about keeping volunteer poll workers trained, he said he's as worried about voters who outright refused to show identification cards at the polls. Weipert said for some Iowans it's a constitutional issue.

"They don't think it's necessary. They believe their U.S. constitutional right says all they need to do is say who they are, their birthday, their address and they should be able to vote," Weipert said.

Weipert said his response to those voters is he and his fellow county auditors have no choice but to comply with the new law. When November comes, he hopes Iowans will comply as well.