Guest column from Drake University student Samantha Bayne.
I re-registered to vote on Constitution Day, September 17th, 2019.
I know that because I registered myself, before an event I led to introduce first-year Drake University students to the world of Iowa politics. Along with almost 30 other forms, I personally turned in my voter registration the next day at the Polk County Auditor’s office. Grabbing some more voter registration forms for the road, I passed the forms to the staffer.
Since then, I have waited patiently for my registration confirmation and the mailed voter ID that would make it possible for me to vote. A month has gone by, and my voting precinct was updated online to reflect my new address, but the voter ID never arrived.
I’ve been doing campus voter engagement in various capacities for over two years. I have likely registered over 500 students at schools across Iowa. I have worked directly with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and county auditors to get information to students.
As an out-of-state student without an Iowa driver’s license or my passport, I know I need the mailed voter ID card to be able to vote in the city elections in November, 2020.
Wondering if I was the only one with this problem, I reached out to some friends who I have registered who are also from out-of-state.
Katie O’Keefe is a recent Drake graduate who has registered to vote in Iowa to reflect her new home.
“I stayed in Iowa due to the job market, especially for young professionals. There are amazing job opportunities and with a low cost of living compared to other states, it was a no-brainer,” O’Keefe said.
She registered with the Democratic Party approximately three weeks ago, but her registration is not reflected in the online database. Without the mailed ID, she is going to bring her passport to the polls.
Zach Conroy is a current student at Drake from Indiana. He registered with a campaign in early October, and his online registration status seems to reflect the correct precinct.
When asked about his frustrations with registering to vote, Conroy said, “The only way to register for people without an IA driver’s license is through a form that must be turned in in-person or via mail.”
As an out-of-state student, Conroy cannot use the online voter registration system. Conroy received a Voter ID at his old address, but now he has to call the County Auditor’s office to be able to vote.
After talking to O’Keefe and Conroy, I realized that this problem was much bigger than my own ID lost in the mail. Quickly, other students began speaking up about their experiences registering to vote.
Adam Bond is a student at Cornell College from California enlisting in the US Army. Although his registration seems active, he hasn’t received an ID. Bond is busy with the Officer Candidate School and hasn’t had the capacity to follow up on his registration status.
Raeann VanDrongelen is a Drake student and resident assistant who is worried that her ID might have been lost in the dorm mail.
Morgan Garner is a politically active Drake student from Missouri who registered on National Voter Registration Day. She still has not received a mailed confirmation that she had updated her address.
Much of this is necessary because of the Election Modernization and Integrity Act of 2017, signed by Gov. Terry Branstad.
This law required voters to show one of the following forms of identification at the polls: valid Iowa driver’s/non-driver’s license, passport, veteran’s/military ID, tribal ID, or a mailed voter ID card to those without Iowa driver’s licenses.
Fully implemented in January 2019, this law meant that out-of-state students like myself who pre-registered would need a passport or the mailed voter ID card. This paper card would contain a specific PIN number but no photo.
The Secretary of State’s website says “your county auditor will send you a voter registration card within two weeks.”
A recent lawsuit from LULAC, the Asian and Latino Coalition, and an Iowa State University student overturned pieces of the law, including a requirement to put an ID number on an absentee ballot request form. However, the voter ID portion of the law remains in place.
“We knew that we were going to have to deal with new roadblocks, new ways to suppress our vote,” said Joe Henry, the Political Director of LULAC-Iowa. “With our young community, we knew that a lot of our young people have not gotten their driver’s license or have been able to take that long drive to the Department of Transportation buildings to get their ID.”
Implementing a voter ID law that excludes those without an Iowa driver’s license makes voting inaccessible for young people. Organizations like LULAC are organizing their communities and remaining vigilant against issues of the law, but voter education is difficult and expensive.
It’s easy to forget about a voter ID coming in the mail, and many don’t know how to receive the proper identification. We should not be expecting citizens to call the County Auditor’s office just to meet the new requirements.
With city and county elections less than a month away, much of our community will not be ready to vote.
Iowa students want to vote. They want to go to the polls.
“I fully understand the importance and weight that a vote in Iowa holds, everything from the local election to the presidential one,” O’Keefe said.
“I think it’s important to vote because it’s our civic duty that is a key component of creating a government that is by the people and for the people, and it’s a freedom that is absolutely special and is something I believe shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Bond said.
Young people are our next decision-makers, and the Iowa legislature should not take away their voice.
by Samantha Bayne
Starting Line reached out to the Polk County Auditor’s office for additional information on what might be happening in these instances, and advice on what to do if it does.
From Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald:
On an average day, Polk County mails 200 voter registration cards to voters that are registering for the first time or making changes to their address, party or name. Each day, a handful of these cards are returned as “undeliverable” by the United States Post Office. Many times the issues around these undeliverable voter cards is that they lack an apartment/unit number or the addressee is not at the address given according to the Post Office. When we receive these undelivered cards, we reach out to the voter (many times by phone) and check that the address entered was correct on the voter registration form.
However, if the voter card is not returned to our office, we have to assume that the Post Office delivered it to the voter. There is no way for a county auditor to know the card wasn’t properly delivered to the voter unless it is returned as undeliverable or we are notified by the voter.
The Polk County Election Office has also worked with our college campus post offices and residence halls to ensure that registrants get their election mail in a timely manner.
I appreciate Samantha’s call to action and encourage all voters without an Iowa Driver’s License or non-operator ID to check and ensure that they received their card and that they are registered. They should also reach out to their local post office to ensure that all of their mail is being delivered.
And the Secretary of State’s office sent over these comments and advice:
Iowans who register to vote and do not have a valid Iowa driver’s license or non-operator’s ID, should receive a free Voter ID card in the mail in a timely manner from their county auditor’s office. If they have not, they should contact their county auditor immediately. Voters can also request replacement cards if they lost theirs. You can find your county auditor by clicking here.
Another option for voters, if they do not receive the cards before they go to vote, is Election Day registration. Voters can utilize a variety of IDs for this, including an out-of-state driver’s license, but also need to bring proof of residency.
Secretary Pate asked every college and university president in the state to provide proof of residency documentation for its students for this very purpose. It can be in paper form or electronic form, such as a PDF, so they can use their phones, tablets, or other hand-held devices to show the document.
Also, want to make it clear that they don’t need to re-register on Election Day, but simply have the option to provide identity and proof of residence using the Election Day Registration process. They can also have an attester, which would be a registered voter from their precinct that can attest to their identity.
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