Iowa is joining the 26 states that are already looking to enforce harsher voter ID requirements this year. Succeeding to get a voter ID bill through the House last year, Iowa Secretary of State is set to try again and proposed a new measure last week. Quick with ready praise, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad declared the photo ID requirement a “good idea” to combat the apparent problem of people who “falsely vote”:
“I think it’s a good idea to protect the integrity of the voting process and prevent theft of personal identification,” Branstad, also a Republican, said during his weekly news conference Monday.
Under Schultz’s proposal, voters would be required to present a government- or university-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot, although it also contains exemptions allowing people without IDs to vote under certain circumstances. The Legislature has taken no formal action on the bill.
“We have had efforts in past elections where people falsely vote in an area where they’re not eligible,” Branstad said. “I think it’s important. I do support requiring identification.”
Of course, those “efforts” are conspicuously absent from Iowa’s — or even the U.S.’s — voting history. As Chairman of the State Government Committee Sen. Jeff Danielson (D) noted, “There’s no evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Iowa or has ever affected the outcome of an election.” Indeed, the Brennan Center for Justice noted that someone is statistically more likely to get struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. Even Schultz admitted when he unveiled the bill that “he didn’t know how common voter fraud was in Iowa but said it was important to close potential loopholes.”
What photo ID requirements like this do actually close is the opportunity for a significant number of Americans to use their right to vote. These voter laws disproportionately affect low-income voters, minorities, seniors, and students and could end up disenfranchising more than five million of them. But according to Branstad and Iowa Republicans, this ranks as just another “good idea.”