Auditors question cost of state voter ID bill - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Auditors question cost of state voter ID bill

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Legislation that would require Iowa voters to show identification at the polls doesn't have enough money committed to it and will burden local governments, according to top Iowa elections officials.

The concern from some members of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors came as the Republican-controlled House had formal debate yesterday over Secretary of State Paul Pate's voter ID bill. Some Democrats argued the proposal would suppress voter turnout, while one GOP lawmaker compared future voting under the proposed bill to checking out from an express lane at the grocery store.

As lawmakers argued over the legislation, county auditors at the Capitol earlier in the day questioned the available funding. The bill doesn't have a formal price tag, though the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, using details provided by Pate's staff, estimated the measure has a one-time fiscal impact of roughly $200,000 for the secretary of state's office. That includes $85,000 for state-issued IDs for people without Iowa driver's licenses.

The Iowa State Association of County Auditors, or ISACA, is registered against the bill. Pate has strongly defended the measure, arguing it will improve elections technology and maintain voter integrity. There's little evidence of fraudulent voting in Iowa, which is known nationally for its high voter participation.

Republican Rep. Ken Rizer, the bill's floor manager who made the grocery store comparison, indicated the Legislature may use general fund money for some of the expenses.

"I am 100 percent sure that if we pass this bill, we will find the money to fund those new voter registration cards," he said.

Stephanie Burke, the county auditor in Montgomery County, is worried her office will be overloaded if responsibility for the state-issued ID cards eventually shifts to county auditors.

"We are a small county with small budgets," she said. "It may be funded now, but I just can't see it being funded forever for those ID cards."

Rizer confirmed after the initial rollout of 85,000 cards at $1 each, costs for issuing them would fall on counties.

Pate's bill would require people to show one of several forms of acceptable identification at election polls. They include an Iowa driver's license, a state ID, a U.S. passport or a military-related ID. The bill does not mandate a photo component, since people without a driver's license are expected to receive the free state-issued ID card.

Democrats have questioned the impact of the legislation, which among proposals like eliminating straight-party voting, would allow polling staff to use a voter's signature on an ID card to determine whether the voter is the person depicted on the ID card.

Auditors also worry about how the public will learn about the changes, according to Travis Weipert, vice president of ISACA and county auditor in Johnson County. He pointed to the LSA estimate of $50,000 for outreach.

"That doesn't even buy you a commercial on statewide TV," he said. "If you're going to do a mail-out to every single voter in this state, you're probably looking at a million bucks. $50,000 is not going to do anything to educate the voters."

Rizer indicated the secretary of state will be responsible for developing a voter outreach plan with the allotted funds.

The $200,000 does not include the bill's outlined revolving loan fund, which is designed to encourage counties to purchase electronic poll books or upgrade existing technologies. Supporters are seeking at least $550,000 for the fund.

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