Iowa judge strikes down part of voter ID law

Iowa judge strikes down part of voter ID law
© Greg Nash
An Iowa district court judge on Thursday struck down part of a voter identification law that made it more difficult for county auditors to tally absentee ballots submitted with missing information.
 
Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano said the provision that blocked county auditors from consulting a statewide voter database to fill in missing information on a voter’s absentee ballot violated existing state law.
 
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Other parts of the voter identification law, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2017, still stand. But the rest of the law faces other legal challenges.
 
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R), whose office argued in favor of the law, “has not offered any explanation for prohibiting use of the voter registration system that would take it out of the realm of being irrational, illogical or wholly unjustifiable,” Romano wrote in her opinion.
 
Romano used the phrase “irrational, illogical or wholly unjustifiable” four times in her ten-page opinion.
 
Pate’s attorneys had argued that the law gave county auditors — who are responsible for administering elections — the authority to use the “best means available” to find and fill in missing information, including contacting the voters themselves. 
 
But the group that sued to block the law, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, argued that contacting voters alone would lead to delays — and to absentee ballots that might otherwise have been counted being thrown out.
 
Pate said he planned to appeal the ruling, which he said threatened the integrity of state elections.
 
“Judge Romano’s decision puts the integrity and security of Iowa’s elections at risk, by making it easier to cheat,” Pate said in a statement. “The people of Iowa have repeatedly shown they overwhelmingly support Voter ID and their elected representatives enacted a law that makes it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. As a result of the judge’s decision, absentee voters will no longer be required to provide proof of identify.”
 
The Polk County ruling is the second major blow to Iowa’s voter identification law. In August, the state Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling blocking parts of the law that reduced the number of early voting days and made it harder for voters to obtain an absentee ballot.