David Hunt is a retired teacher from North Cedar HS and a former Iowa Teacher of the Year.
In 2011 voter ID laws suddenly appeared in states all over the country, particularly where Republicans made big gains in 2010. Indeed Iowa Republicans passed just such a bill with Rep. Kaufmann R, Wilton voting yes. During this legislative session, both Secretary of State Matt Schultz and Gov. Terry Branstad are resurrecting the idea. They raise the specter of voter impersonation fraud although they admit there is no evidence of a voter fraud problem. Statistics show that the likelihood of such fraud is typically less than .001% of votes cast. The Brennan Center for Justice has concluded that “ It’s more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls”.
It is estimated that the Voter ID bill would cost 300,000 dollars to implement. This raises the question, why would legislators and state officials around the country push a bill that costs the taxpayers money and addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. Actually it’s part of what the New York Times described as the “ largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century”.
Since not everyone has an acceptable photo ID, such a plan would make it more difficult for the young, the elderly, those of lower income and minority populations to vote. Even if IDs are free voters must often obtain copies of other documents like birth certificates which are not free. Even though the proposal introduced this year is less restrictive than passed the House last year, its supporters can’t guarantee that citizens will not be denied their voting rights nor can they guarantee that if Republicans gain control of both Houses that it won’t be amended to become more restrictive.
The organization which is driving this voter suppression is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Members include conservative think tanks and large corporations like Exxon-Mobile, Wal Mart, Phillip Morris, Koch Industries, etc. About 2,000 state legislators belong including all Iowa House Republicans. ALEC creates model legislation to benefit its members and distributes those bills to member legislatures. The June 2009 issue of Inside ALEC shows how to write voter ID laws that circumvent civil rights laws and provides strategies for passing such laws.
Voter suppression has long been a goal of ALEC as co-founder Paul Weyrich stated “ I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down”. For more information go to http: alecexposed.org .
Iowans need to encourage Rep. Kaufmann and other Republicans to demonstrate an independent voice and stand up to outside influences who wish to shape the electorate to serve their interests.