Online Voter Registration Coming to Iowa

Feb 24, 2015

As Iowa’s Secretary of State works to implement online voter registration, the Iowa legislature weighs in.

A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate is considering a bill that allows voters to provide their birth date and a unique identifying number, like the last four digits of a Social Security number, to register to vote online. Voters would then verify their identity with an electronic signature. 

Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, suggested adding a provision for photo I.D. to increase security, but Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo, says that’s not necessary.

“I think it’s helpful for people to focus on the way in which we verify someone’s identity in today’s…online environment,” Danielson says. “(That) doesn’t always mean the photo is the most important.”

Danielson says he doubts the proposed online registration system will be in place by the 2016 elections. 

Secretary of State Paul Pate is neutral on the bill, but he says the new legislation might be moving a bit too fast.

“We’re asking for some patience to allow us to implement the first phase,” Pates says. “This is a pretty big step. If you really want bipartisan support, you have to give us time for this new approach.”

Pate’s office is working with the Iowa Department of Transportation to create an online registration system for people who already have DOT identification but are not registered to vote.  He says figuring out how to reach the 7 percent of eligible voters who lack identification will come next. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures people can register online to vote in 20 states. An additional four states have approved, but have yet to enact, online registration.