League of Women Voters Seeks to Inform on New Voter Laws


Courtesy of Justin Bahr

Students are being targeted to register early to vote in the elections in November. Because the voting lines can get long, it can discourage students from casting their votes. GSB Senators and the Ames League of Women Voters stress the importance of college votes.

Chris Anderson

In response to voting legislation changes made in the 2017 Iowa Legislative session, the League of Women Voters of Ames and Story County held a meeting at Ames Public Library Thursday night seeking to inform voters on these recent changes.

The League of Women Voters invited Story County Auditor Lucy Martin to speak at the event. As auditor, Martin is responsible for carrying out elections in the county and certifying the results of those elections.

Martin has worked with the League of Women Voters in the past, and considers them a useful organization when it comes to voter education.

“The biggest enemy we have is lack of knowledge about the process,” Martin said.

On whether or not the changes make voting more difficult, Martin says it depends on what kind of voter someone is. 

The most drastic changes have to do with identification required at the time of voting. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, voters will be required to show either their driver’s license or new Voter ID card at the time of voting.

What card a person uses will depend on how they are currently registered to vote in the state. All registered voters will be shipped an informational paper from the County Auditor with information on voting and voting locations.

If someone is currently registered with their driver’s license, not much will change other than a requirement to show the license at the time of voting. If someone is registered via their Social Security number, they will be mailed a Voter ID card to be used to vote. New voters will use their driver’s license if applicable or will receive a Voter ID card.

The state is rolling out this program in what they call a “soft rollout”. For the 2018 year voters will be required to provide identification or give a verbal oath saying they are who they claim to be. Starting in 2019, the oath will no longer be an option and one must provide either a driver’s license or voter ID.

Questions were raised during the meeting on how the state expects voters to be informed on this new policy. According to Martin, this is the responsibility of the Iowa Secretary of State, and she would like to see measures to ensure proper education.

“This is just my opinion, but I think he [Secretary of State] should be buying television ads or something to let people know,” Martin said.

If a voter does not have identification at the time of voting, they will be issued a provisional ballot. To have their provisional ballot counted, voters must later prover their identity at the County Auditor’s office.

Martin expects these changes to lead to an increase in provisional ballots issued, which could cause increased difficulty to voters.

Other changes include changing the time period for absentee and early satellite voting from 40 days before the election to 29 days. In addition, the Secretary of State will randomly select precincts to be audited via hand count. Straight party voting will also no longer be an option.

However, selfies will now be allowed in polling locations and at the ballot box. 

As a result of these changes, Martin expects a needed increase in election workers and training for election workers. Voting may now take less time however, as all that will be needed in most cases is a scan of a barcode on either a driver’s license or voter ID card.

Something Martin worries about is how these changes will impact students. In her opinion, students already face barriers to voting due to moving around, paying bills online, or not having important documents in their name.

“These issues haven’t changed but I think they’re compounded because of the extra level of identity and proof of residence you have to provide now,” Martin said, “There’s certainly more things to remember, more hoops to jump through.”

Martin also shared that she would be willing to speak to any student groups that reached out to her about changes in voting legislation.