While Iowa’s voter ID law may have put hurdles in the way of casting a ballot, county auditors and poll workers are still committed to helping all eligible citizens vote on Election Day.
For Tuesday’s municipal and school board elections, Iowa’s voter ID law is fully rolled out and all polling locations will require voters to show some form of ID. The law was partially in place for the 2018 midterm elections, so poll workers already had some familiarity with the changes.
When it came time to train poll workers for this year’s elections, county auditors didn’t focus on every minutiae of the law — for the most part, poll workers aren’t expected to memorize every aspect of Iowa’s voter ID law. Generally, polling locations will have the information posted near the check-in station.
But the poll workers still receive training, and that can pose some issues.
“It’s getting to be more and more of a struggle because there’s more and more legalese to providing an election. And it’s getting harder on [poll workers] to understand all of it,” said Roxanna Moritz, Scott County auditor.
She said Scott County began its training more than a month before Election Day. There, officials talk about the equipment and how to handle people who aren’t just voting, but changing their address or registering at their polling place.
When it came to the voter ID law, Moritz said it wasn’t too complicated, and Scott County poll workers would have sheets at their stations listing acceptable forms of identification for reference. If that’s not enough, provisional ballots are always an option.
“So, I train my people to make sure that if [voters] don’t have everything that they need, that [poll workers] give them that opportunity to do provisional,” she said.
In Clinton County, auditor Eric Van Lancker said he had a similar view on the 2017 law.
Every year, staff try to emphasize a different aspect of the election process, Van Lancker said. Last year, the voter ID law was the emphasis.
“The soft roll-out is over,” Van Lancker said. “So, we did talk about what IDs can be used, what to do if a voter doesn’t have an ID, what options they have if they don’t have an ID, and that sort of thing.”
Clinton County will have posters with accepted forms of ID listed for voters, he said, and the poll workers will have assistance from the equipment they use.
“The nice thing about having an electronic poll book like Precinct Atlas is that when a voter comes in and if the voter doesn’t have an ID, then the Precinct Atlas will walk us through all the steps that we need to do,” Van Lancker said. “There’s a screen on there that will tell the poll worker which forms of ID they can use to help this person vote.”
That last part is important. According to Moritz, the problem wasn’t people who don’t have an ID.
“The reality is, about 75% of the people that come to vote slip out an ID already,” she said. “But it’s the people that don’t have the acceptable, readily available ID.”
Although voters can fill out provisional ballots, they have to return their qualifying information to their county auditors by a deadline listed on the provisional ballot. Moritz said her worry was some voters won’t return after casting a provisional ballot.
“So, when we look at being inclusive and voting and wanting to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to vote, some of those small challenges hinder them when they get to the polls,” she said.
And the small changes can put extra stress on poll workers, many of whom have worked the polls before.
“Most of our poll workers are older, and it’s more challenging when, every election year, it’s a new law that they have to follow. And just remember, poll workers take this very seriously,” Moritz said. “I think it’s tough when every cycle it’s something new.”
Still, the bottom line for these auditors is to ensure people get their vote cast somehow if they’re eligible. Even if the law adds extra steps, some county auditors have trained their poll workers to keep that in mind.
“Everybody votes if they walk in,” Moritz said. “You walk in the door, you shouldn’t leave without voting.”
By Nikoel Hytrek