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Judge upholds voter ID, strikes down much else of 2017 Iowa voting reform law

IA Secretary of State calls it a victory.

Posted: Oct 1, 2019 10:10 AM
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 3:51 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa judge has upheld voter ID as allowable under the Iowa Constitution but struck down as unconstitutional portions of a 2017 voting reform law challenged by a Hispanic civil rights group and an Iowa State University student.

The law signed by former Gov. Terry Branstad requires voters to show certain forms of identification when voting at the polls, provide an identification number on absentee ballot applications and allows county auditors to reject ballots if they believe signatures don't appear to match a voter signature on record.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and ISU student Taylor Blair sued Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate in May 2018 challenging the law as unconstitutional saying it could lead to voter suppression and disenfranchise voters, especially Latinos who vote absentee in large numbers.

District Court Judge Joseph Seidlin said in a ruling filed Monday that the state may require a voter ID at the polls.

"The evidence presented simply did not demonstrate that the burden on young voters, old voters, female voters, minority voters, poor voters and voters who are Democrats to show an approved form of identification at the polls is appreciably greater than the rest of the population," he said.

LULAC argued that voters in those groups are less likely to have a driver's license or state-issued ID card and therefore are less likely to have an approved ID to show at the polls.

Pate viewed Monday's ruling as a victory.

"My goal has always been to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat," he said in a statement. "I will continue to fight to ensure Iowa has clean, fair elections statewide."

Many states are dealing with voter ID and other voting access issues.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's School of Law said in June that the vast majority of states changing voting laws this year intended to expand voting access rather than impose restrictions.

Lawmakers in 45 states have been debating at least 647 bills that would expand voting access, the center said. That's compared to lawmakers in 28 states that have considered at least 82 bills to restrict access.

Strict photo voter identification was the subject of bills in seven states and 10 others had photo ID laws that allowed voters optional identification methods. Photo ID requirements in Montana and Wyoming failed this year.

The judge reversed his earlier order that says Pate cannot require a voter ID number on absentee ballot applications. He said Pate cannot include language on absentee ballot applications that says: "An absentee ballot cannot be issued until ID number is provided" because the law allows county election officials to obtain the number if it's missing and process the request.

A separate lawsuit has challenged a rule Pate initiated that says election officials cannot obtain missing absentee ballot application information from the state's voter registration system and must contact a voter directly by mail, email, telephone or in person.

A judge has found that rule to be a wrong interpretation of the law and the case is on appeal.

Seidlin did find troubling a provision of the law that prohibited election officials from issuing a voter ID card to voters with a driver's license or a state-issued ID.

"All eligible, registered voters should be able to ask for and receive a Voter ID Card from their county auditor so that every voter can cast a ballot as easily as every other voter," he said.

He also struck down the signature match provisions saying they violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

Priorities USA Foundation, a major Democratic campaign supporter and voter advocacy group that funded the lawsuit for LULAC and Blair, said it has concerns with the "unnecessary barriers created by voter ID laws" but considers the judge's ruling striking down portions of the law a victory for voting rights.

"These onerous provisions would have impeded Iowans as they attempted to exercise their right to vote by absentee ballot," said Guy Cecil, chairman of foundation.

The lawsuit went to the Iowa Supreme Court last year and the court upheld a state court judge's order halting the enforcement of some sections of the law and said it must go to trial. A trial was held in June.

Voter ID has rolled out gradually and in elections last year voters without IDs were allowed to sign an "Oath of Identification" attesting that they are who they say they are.

This year, however, the option of signing an oath goes away and voters must have acceptable identification or they will have to cast a provisional ballot, then return to show ID within a few days for their ballot to count.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 17 states have laws that require a photo ID to vote and 18 states including Iowa have laws requiring some form of ID to vote.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 304023

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin641421113
Ramsey27059502
Anoka21526225
Dakota21268190
Washington13529113
Stearns13524108
St. Louis8433108
Scott820154
Wright746139
Olmsted653534
Sherburne570941
Clay483956
Carver455913
Blue Earth405214
Rice403136
Kandiyohi396821
Crow Wing353431
Nobles304929
Chisago304410
Otter Tail300522
Benton293348
Winona273730
Mower257423
Douglas250735
Polk248923
Morrison228029
Lyon213411
Beltrami211917
McLeod205011
Becker199815
Goodhue196728
Steele19137
Itasca185523
Isanti184917
Todd178413
Carlton177715
Nicollet158725
Freeborn15125
Mille Lacs149931
Le Sueur144911
Cass138610
Waseca137811
Brown136415
Pine13138
Meeker12398
Roseau11454
Hubbard111924
Martin111220
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Dodge8380
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Watonwan8334
Renville83124
Wadena7736
Sibley7724
Rock7569
Aitkin75529
Pipestone71018
Houston6854
Fillmore6770
Yellow Medicine63311
Pennington6277
Kanabec59613
Murray5783
Swift5758
Faribault5422
Pope5281
Stevens5063
Clearwater5058
Jackson4841
Marshall4758
Lake4066
Koochiching3855
Wilkin3715
Unassigned36759
Lac qui Parle3613
Lincoln3511
Norman3417
Big Stone3072
Mahnomen2904
Grant2726
Kittson2138
Red Lake2053
Traverse1461
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Cook660

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 225897

Reported Deaths: 2345
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33451334
Linn14206164
Scott1116385
Black Hawk10849134
Woodbury10323124
Johnson948636
Dubuque918291
Story677621
Dallas633657
Pottawattamie624570
Sioux369125
Webster357833
Cerro Gordo351544
Marshall347846
Clinton327540
Buena Vista304114
Des Moines287920
Muscatine286468
Warren279611
Plymouth274242
Wapello255071
Jones229813
Jasper217443
Marion204320
Lee202217
Carroll197322
Bremer194212
Henry18227
Crawford174316
Benton169519
Tama153840
Jackson144313
Delaware143221
Washington140214
Dickinson138210
Boone136311
Mahaska126727
Wright12336
Clay11714
Buchanan116410
Hardin115010
Page11294
Clayton11105
Hamilton11059
Cedar107413
Harrison106729
Calhoun10617
Kossuth10566
Floyd104116
Mills10407
Fayette103310
Lyon10268
Butler10116
Poweshiek98913
Winneshiek96212
Iowa94612
Winnebago91723
Hancock8607
Louisa85816
Sac8578
Grundy85611
Chickasaw8494
Cherokee8374
Cass80823
Allamakee79911
Mitchell7884
Appanoose78710
Humboldt7695
Union7676
Shelby76211
Emmet76024
Guthrie75215
Franklin73521
Jefferson7112
Madison6804
Unassigned6620
Palo Alto6514
Keokuk5967
Pocahontas5574
Howard5529
Greene5220
Osceola5211
Ida48713
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Davis4619
Monroe44312
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