Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and his staff keep misleadingly saying that “nothing will change with voter registration” under his proposed voter ID bill.
That’s simply not true. Pate’s proposal would eliminate Election Day registration for some voters. As Drake student Elise Bauernfeind has detailed in a blog for the ACLU of Iowa, if Pate’s plan had been in place last November, she would have been disenfranchised.
In a Twitter rebuttal to Elise, Pate states, “My proposal does not change Iowa's current voter registration laws, including Election Day registration.”
Iowa Voters Must Be Able to Register and Cast a Regular Ballot on Election Day
We wish that were true, but that's an "alternative fact.” It’s playing semantics games with the term “Election Day registration.” Ever since it was put into place by the Iowa Legislature in 2007, “Election Day registration” has meant the same thing—and Paul Pate knows that. It means more than simply being able only to register on Election Day. We want Iowa’s laws to assure what they do now—that voters who aren’t already registered on Election Day get to do two things: they get to register on Election Day, and they get to cast a regular ballot on Election Day.
So what the Secretary of State is actually saying is that the rules governing registration won’t change and that Elise could have indeed registered on Election Day. But what he isn’t saying—and what he can’t truthfully say under this bill—is that Elise could have actually voted a regular ballot on Election Day.
Pate's Bill Would Alter Same-Day Regular Voting
So the truth is that under this bill there are important changes in “Election Day Registration” that would have kept Elise from voting and having her vote counted.
Elise had only a valid, current Minnesota driver’s license (not an Iowa driver’s license) and a valid, current ID card issued by Drake University. Even though that would allow her to vote under current law, it wouldn’t be enough under Pate’s bill. Under his bill, after January 2019, even if Elise could register on Election Day, she wouldn't have been able to vote with a regular ballot on Election Day for two reasons.
The first reason: She didn't have one of the three government-issued photo IDs the bill would require from voters to cast a regular ballot.
The second reason: She wouldn’t have had the “free voter verification card” that Pate's bill would allow her to use since she lacked a photo ID. That’s because the card would be mailed to voters once they register— it would not mailed to eligible voters who aren’t registered. Because Elise hadn't pre-registered (at least 10 days before a General Election, under Pate’s bill), she wouldn't have been sent his “free voter verification card” in time to use it.
That’s an important change from current law, which Elise was able to take advantage of. Under current Iowa voting law, “Election day registration” allowed her to register and vote a regular ballot on Election Day
Casting a Ballot But Not Having It Counted is Not Voting
By contrast, under Pate’s bill, she would indeed be allowed to register on Election Day BUT she would be able to cast only a provisional ballot, not a regular ballot. And that is a big, harmful, and unnecessary change to Iowa’s voter registration law. And that’s why Pate is wrong in describing his own bill. (Read it for yourself in the bill at page 11, lines 1-19.)
Under Pate’s proposal, if she cast a provisional ballot, Elise would then have had to produce the voter verification card or one of the three narrow types of ID in less than 48 hours. And she wouldn’t have been able to do that. She didn’t have those IDs.
Casting a ballot but not having it counted is not voting. Secretary of State Pate wants to take away current procedures eligible Iowa voters like Elise use to vote. He owes voters the full truth.