Auditors oppose current voter ID bill

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Iowa state auditors are opposed to a House bill that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Auditors are not against the idea of showing a photo ID to vote; they dislike the terms outlined specifically in House Bill 95, said Stacey Feldman, Plymouth County auditor.

"The auditors aren't trying to say we oppose photo ID because we don't believe there's fraud in our state or we don't think we need to have better election laws to prevent fraud," Feldman said. "That's not what the message is. The message is specific to that House file."

The Iowa State Association of County Auditors (ISACA) discussed the issue at a special meeting last Friday in Des Moines Feldman attended.

She outlined the main problems ISACA auditors have with the proposed bill, from lack of money to pay for the changes to an increase in provisional balloting,

"The biggest thing is voter education. There's a huge emphasis put on educating the public and the voter of the change if it were to pass," Feldman said. "And there's no funding behind it."

That could possibly mean those education costs would trickle down to the county level and be passed on at the local level, Feldman said.

She said auditors were concerned about the bill's fiscal note, which explains where money for the proposed measure would come from.

"That fiscal note didn't have a lot in it to support the bill," Feldman said.

Another area of concern for auditors is the issuance of free photo IDs and birth certificates for those who need them, with no funding, Feldman said.

Thirdly, the auditors group was concerned about supporting a bill that could potentially make it too hard for people in certain situations, Feldman said.

"People may just find it's not worth it to them because of the hoops they have to jump through," she said. "We don't want to ever have laws that create less voter turnout."

Lastly the auditors discussed how requiring a photo ID would increase provisional balloting, which is used to record a vote where there are questions regarding a voter's eligibility.

"As the bill reads, if you did not have a photo ID at the polls, you'd have to vote a provisional ballot," she said. "In turn, that person would have to come into their county auditor's office and show that ID for the ballot to count."

Auditors wouldn't have a problem administering more provisional ballots, Feldman said, but it would mean a different way of doing things.

"We administer any changes that are passed," she said. "We'll facilitate it and make it work."

About three-quarters of the auditors in the state attended last week's ISACA meeting and none of them were in favor of House Bill 95 as its written, Feldman said.

The ISACA's executive board upheld the entire group's vote to register as opposed to the bill, she added.

Feldman said the Legislature looks toward the ISACA for guidance or understanding when it comes to election laws because they're "the functioning body that implements election laws in the state."

The auditors association is not a political group but rather an advisory body, she said.

"The politics are left at the House, state and Senate level," Feldman said.

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