Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Election Law Changes Part 1: The ID Rules

Note: Auditors and staffers attended ongoing election trainings this week; I was at one Friday May 12. Some small updates to original post.

“To ensure the integrity of, and to instill public confidence in, all elections in this state the general assembly finds that the verification of a voter’s identity is necessary before a voter is permitted to receive and cast a ballot.”

Well, there ya have it. Paul Pate’s "Election Integrity" (sic) bill is signed and now the law of the land.

For weeks now I’ve been bombarded, at work and at home, with requests for a deep dive into what it all means. I’ve been putting it off because of my professional role in all this as an election staffer. I’ve been 85 to 90% sure on most of this for weeks but I needed to get to 100 before publishing. Thank you all for waiting.

Let’s get the biggest question I’ve been getting out of the way first. It’s going to be more important to GET people registered ahead of time, but the voter registration process itself changes very little. You can still fill out a form or, if you have an Iowa driver’s license, register on line. You can still have a drive and register other people to vote, the registration forms don’t change, the requested and required information does not change. Election Day registration has not been eliminated, and there’s nothing like the proof of citizenship requirements that Kansas and Arizona have.

As for the items that HAVE changed, what I’ve come up with is so long that I’m going to have to break it into four parts. In the next days I will look at:
Today, we’ll start with the ID provisions themselves.

The acceptable forms of ID are fairly limited. Democrats offered multiple amendments to expand the list, but all failed. We are left with:
a. Before a precinct election official furnishes a ballot to a voter under section 49.77, the voter shall establish the voter’s identity by presenting the official with one of the following forms of identification for verification:
(1) An Iowa driver’s license.
(2) An Iowa nonoperator’s identification card.
(3) A United States passport.
(4) A United States military or veterans identification card.

Hy-Vee Fuel Saver cards are not included.

The intent, frankly, is to as much as possible without crossing the lines of previous court rulings force the use of the Iowa driver’s license. (Note: The non-operator ID issued by the DOT is functionally equivalent to the driver’s license, except for the driving part. From here on out when I refer to “license” I also mean “or non-operator ID”.) Previous cases in other states have held that if there is a mandatory ID, there must be a free version.

Thus, the bill has a provision for a “voter verification card,” which I’m calling the “Magic Card.”

The voter ID requirements will not fully take effect until the Magic Cards are up and running (because to do otherwise would be risky in court). That’s going to take some reprogramming of IVoters, the state voter file software. Not clear how long that will be.

Update: Secretary of State staff said Friday the target date for the "voter verification cards" will be December 1st. The plan is to begin a "slow rollout" of educating voters at the polls during this fall's city and school elections, then start asking for IDs after January 1, 2018.

The only people who will get the Magic Card will be the people with no Iowa license number. Auditors are specifically prohibited from sending these cards cards to anyone else. People who do have a license will instead get an “acknowledgement.” Last week auditors were told this would be a letter rather than a card, but today we were told that it was not yet clear if it would be a letter or a card. If it is a card, it will have a different design than the Magic Card. Personally I'm hoping for a card format, because people love those cards and carry them till they fall apart. But as you'll see below there's some downside to having two kinds of cards.

Many, many people think that the lines on the voter registration asking for a license number or the last four digits of the SSN  are an either/or option, but that's not correct.

Since 2003, the letter of the law says if you have an Iowa license number, you are REQUIRED to give that number. Not "unless you don't have your license with you," not "it's easier to remember my Social Security number." Required.

The  SSN option is only meant to be used by people without an Iowa license. Both these numbers have to be verified through an ID lookup managed by the Iowa DOT.

Now, in the real world, practice has been that  if you gave us only the partial SSN, we simply verified that, and we didn't have to also check to see if you had an Iowa license number.

That'll basically still be OK. The Secretary of State's office tells me: "The SOS is working with our IVoters vendor and with the DOT to provide weekly updates of DLs.  That will enable auditors to match new registrants against the DL database, and thus add the DL to the voter’s record.  We are presently in the process of meeting with both our vendor and the DOT to develop these requirements."
The Secretary of State’s office will do an initial cross match between the state voter file and the Iowa Department of Transportation database, and will import all the driver’s license numbers that are not already on file. They will then send everyone who does not have a DL number a Magic Card to use instead of the license.  Buried in the fine print: this card needs to be signed before the poll worker sees it.

After that first statewide wave, auditors have to mail the Magic Cards on an ongoing basis.

As for that first wave, the statewide number 85,000 got tossed around a lot. That number appears to be based on a preliminary matchup.

As of a month or so ago, 24,813 Johnson County voters (29% of our county registration) did not have a DL number on their voter records. We probably have more than anyone else but I doubt we have close to a third of the statewide total.

Roughly 1/3 of our 92,000 active voters first registered in Johnson County before we started asking for license numbers. 40% of those people do not have a license number on their voter record. We started asking for license numbers when the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) kicked in at the beginning of January 2003.  If you haven’t re-registered in 15 years, you may never have been asked for your license number.

A lot of these people will get their license number filled in during the match-up process. But some won’t because they’ve aged out of the driving population and have had no reason until now to need a non-driver ID. Voters using the nursing home absentee procedure are exempt from the ID requirements, but a lot of non-driving seniors are living at home or with adult children and getting rides, and they’re NOT exempt.

Of the remaining 2/3 of our voters who first registered in 2003 or later, just 20% have no license number listed.  That’s probably the highest rate in the state because of our out of state student population.

Remember, the real intent behind ID laws is to call into question universal suffrage itself. There’s a still vocal contingent that believes only “taxpayers” – read that as property tax payers – should be able to vote, especially on local offices and money issues. Symm v. United States, the 1978 Supreme Court ruling that yes, students DO get to vote in college towns, really sticks in their craw.

In a late amendment, auditors are prohibited from sending a Magic Card to anyone EXCEPT the people without DL numbers. That deliberately de-values the card, and turns it into evidence that the person did not have the preferred form of ID, the Iowa license.

This means anyone pulling out a Magic Card is going to be singled out, and probably get extra scrutiny from the Republican poll watchers. And people still carrying their old cards will wonder why the voter in front of them used “their voter card” while they were asked for a license.

Voters living in care centers are exempt from all this stuff which is good but self-serving, as that’s a conservative leaning demographic. One of the only two good things any of this year’s election legislation does is expands the nursing home team voting process to additional facilities. I wouldn’t exactly call it “fraud,” but let’s just say I’ve seen a few voters over the years who see the cognitive decline of a parent as a way to cast a second vote – oops, I mean “help Mom vote.”

So what happens if you don’t have ID? Well, for the rest of this year and for 2018 you can sign an oath. Two things worry me here. One is, there's a lull you to sleep aspect. People may  think signing the oath will still be OK in 2020, when it won't. The other is, it could serve as a point of protest: "I hate this ID law, I want to do the oath instead."

Please, please, PLEASE people: Don’t take out your frustration with the law on the poor poll workers or on me. We can handle it but we can't do anything about it, and you're making the people behind you in line wait longer. Save your anger for the legislators who passed this; voting is the best revenge.

If you don't have your license or a Magic Card, you can also present the same ID materials you can use now for an Election Day registration:
a)  An out-of-state driver's license or nonoperator's identification card.
b)  A United States passport. (already included in ID law)
c)  A United States military identification or veterans ID card. (already included in ID law); the veterans’ card is a new addition to the EDR materials)
d)  An identification card issued by an employer.
e)  A student identification card issued by an Iowa high school or an Iowa postsecondary educational institution.
The catch is: the student IDs have to include an expiration date… which the Regent’s universities rather conveniently don't have. Neither does my county employee ID.

There is also an “attester” provision where another voter living in the same precinct can vouch for you. This covers the couple, or couple with their young adult, where someone forgot their license. But you can only attest for two people and you have to live in the precinct… meaning Democrats will have to rotate their poll watchers and vote protection volunteers in and out. All attesters will also have to show ID, as will everyone attesting for an Election Day registration.

Worst case, you can vote a provisional ballot… but the bill is clear that if you don’t show up at the auditor’s office with ID materials, the ballot is to be rejected. Update: In one small positive change, provisional voters will be able to present evidence to auditors through the deadline for receiving absentee ballots - generally noon the Monday after the election. Previously, that deadline was noon Thursday. Good thing we have more time, because we'll have more provisional ballots.

Voters making Election Day moves within a county will now have to provide both ID and proof of address. This section of the law takes effect right away this July 1st. Previously, they were among the few voters who had to show ID, but the ID was accepted even with an old address. This could be a barrier to people who have just  moved and haven’t gotten bills or items showing the new address yet. It may, ironically, increase improper voting as people may find it easier just to go back to their old polling place.

And voters who first register by mail, even those who get a Magic Card, will still have to show their ID materials (such as out of state license and proof of address) before voting in their first federal election. That’s not just an extra burden – it’s confusing for voters AND auditors, who will now have to track additional data points: Did they first register by mail? Federal or non-federal election? Did they show their items yet?

So that covers the ID requirements. But stay tuned; I still have two more days of bad news.

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