Last week Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate unveiled his voter suppression proposal that would impose many new voter identification restrictions on Iowa voters. One part of Pate’s plan that stuck out was its refusal to accept student IDs that Iowa colleges already provide to be used for voting purposes. While Pate insisted all voters without an Iowa drivers license would be sent a new identification card (at an estimated total cost of $500,000 to taxpayers), many students worried they wouldn’t be properly distributed to young students who move every year. And in any case, one more barrier or hassle to the voting process could suppress turnout among young Iowa voters.
Student leaders from Iowa’s three largest public universities released the following joint statement in response to Pate’s proposal:
Pate’s Expensive Voter ID Law Would Create Barriers for College Voters
As student body presidents at Iowa’s three regent universities, we are deeply concerned about Secretary of State Paul Pate’s anticipated “election integrity” proposal to the Iowa Legislature.
This past election cycle, we worked hand-in-hand with the Secretary of State’s office to engage our peers in the electoral process by registering thousands of students and encouraging them to turn out to vote. Under Secretary Pate’s leadership, college student voter turnout became a priority in the state in 2016. Unfortunately, his newest initiative, an unnecessary voter identification requirement, would reverse the progress that we made among college students this past election cycle significantly.
Secretary Pate’s proposal would require all voters in Iowa to show voter identification, such as an Iowa driver’s license, when they vote. Our student IDs, which are issued by the state’s public universities, would not be an accepted form of voter ID under the current proposal. When each student is already equipped with a form of credible identification, it is unnecessary and burdensome to require them to jump through additional bureaucratic hoops to practice their fundamental right to vote. We know firsthand how difficult it is to get students registered to vote already—with frequent address changes and being introduced to the electoral process for the first time—the last thing students need is another barrier to their participation.
Furthermore, the proposal claims that students may receive a free voter ID card in the mail if they do not have a driver’s license, but these free IDs are only available to existing active voters. The majority of students are first-time voters and therefore would not receive the free ID. This problem is exacerbated for out-of-state students who do not have an Iowa driver’s license. This group of students would be effectively disenfranchised in Iowa if they were not permitted to receive the free ID under the proposed law.
In addition to the unnecessary burden this proposal creates for students to vote, it is also expected to cost the state approximately $1 million to fund. With such a small number of documented cases of voter fraud in Iowa over the past several years, this would be an irresponsible use of state funds when the budget is already incredibly tight. Additionally, year after year, legislators and the Governor cite significant budget constraints for the declining support for public education in the state. It is extremely frustrating and disheartening to see that our tuition prices continue to rise as our elected officials consider spending our limited state funds on an expensive proposal to fix a virtually non-existent problem.
We hope that our state legislators will listen to our concerns and vote against any legislation that would misuse state funds and severely limit the ability for college students to exercise their right to vote.
Rachel Zuckerman, University of Iowa
Cole Staudt, Iowa State University
Hunter Flesch, University of Northern Iowa