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Voter identification hot topic at forum

League of Women Voters host Legislative Forum

By Michelle Lindsey
On March 22, 2017

Local residents attend the League of Women Voters Legislative Forum on March 18 to discuss the proposed voter identification bill. Panelists, left to right, include State Representatives Kirsten Running-Marquadt, Todd Taylor, Art Staed and Senator Liz Mathis. PHOTO BY JEFF SIGMUND.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Linn County, a nonpartisan group of people aimed at educating the public about political issues, held its traditional Legislative Forum on Saturday, March 18, at Mercy Hospitals Hallagan Education Center. 

The forum is typically held with representatives from a mixed group of political parties. However, for the first time the Republican representatives branched off on their own, holding a forum at the same time, creating some controversy within the media and head-scratching among constituents.

Cedar Rapids Attorney Steve Pace moderated the LWV forum, which consisted of State Senator Liz Mathis and State Representatives Art Staed, Todd Taylor and Kirsten Running-Marquardt. The first topic Pace asked the panelists to respond to was the issue of the current Voter ID bill that has been proposed by Iowa Secretary of State, Paul Pate. House Study Bill 93 has also been dubbed the Election Integrity Act. 

Senator Mathis said during Saturday’s forum, “Voting is a constitutional right. When you show your ID at a bank or a grocery store, that’s not a constitutional right, that’s something that is a policy that store or bank has set up. Voting is a constitutional right. I feel that the voter ID law is going to greatly complicate what happens at the polls.” 

Staed played out a possible scenario for audience members of what could happen with a voter ID law. “People will have to show an ID at the polling place and the poll-watchers can challenge that. If a picture doesn’t look like you or the signature isn’t quite the same then you’ll have a provisional ballot which may require you to go in within three days of the election to present other identification to prove that you’re a voter. It’s something that is going to disenfranchise a lot of people,” he said. 

Taylor added, “If you disenfranchise one person, it’s too much.”     

According to its website, The League of Women Voters is an organization that is, “dedicated to ensuring that all eligible voters – particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or under-served communities, including first-time voters, non-college youth, new citizens, minorities, the elderly and low-income Americans – have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote.”

Running-Marquardt spoke up about voter suppression during the League’s forum. She said, “I think about first, the men and women who have died for the right to vote, not only in this country but in other countries. Of course, when you think about the people who are going to be disenfranchised, who it really is a suppression built for, it is our senior citizens, it is those with disabilities, it is college students and it is minority populations in the state of Iowa.”

Running-Marquardt ended the segment of Voter Identification by saying, “We really need to be protecting people in vulnerable populations instead of putting barriers up and then costing the county.”

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