- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Early voting in Iowa would be reduced under new proposed changes to a voter identification bill approved Monday by a Republican-controlled House subcommittee.

The changes, introduced in an amendment by Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Marion, go beyond the scope of the voter ID bill originally filed and promoted by Secretary of State Paul Pate.

The amendment was approved about an hour after it was made public during a subcommittee of the House State Government Committee, which Rizer chairs. It advanced with only Republican support.

Among the changes is a plan to reduce early voting in a primary or general election in Iowa from 40 days to 29 days. Iowa has one of the longest early voting periods in the country. Rizer said it’s wrong to assume fewer people will vote early under the proposed new system.

“I think more people would just vote within the window of the time that it’s available,” he said.

Daniel Zeno with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa criticized the amendment, which he said could create problems with same-day voter registration for some people.

“We think it makes the bill worse,” he said.

The amended bill would eliminate the option of voting straight party with a single mark on a ballot. It would also close polls at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., which is the current setup for primary and general elections.

Rizer said he’s heard from county auditors that the last hour has less foot traffic. He noted that poll workers have long days.

“A lot of our poll workers are elderly, and right now they’re doing 16-hour days and it stretches the day out significantly for them,” he said.

Rizer indicated in late January that he was interested in making changes to Pate’s voter ID bill, which includes several provisions aimed at voter integrity and technology upgrades for counties that oversee elections. There is little evidence of fraudulent voting in Iowa.

Amendments to bills are not unusual, but Pate has spent weeks meeting with groups to promote his version of the bill. Several groups, including the Iowa State Association of County Auditors and the League of Women Voters of Iowa, are registered against the legislation.

Pate declined to comment on whether he supported the proposed changes. His spokesman said Pate hopes lawmakers will pass his original bill, though he would also offer advice.

“I provided the Iowa Legislature with a technology-driven platform that modernizes Iowa’s elections system, expedites polling wait times, and eliminates the potential for human error and fraud. The bill is in legislators’ hands now,” Pate said in a statement.

The amendment adds more money for a revolving loan fund aimed at technology upgrades for elections. It also makes several changes to how the state would set up and distribute state-issued voter identification cards for people who do not have an Iowa driver’s license. The license is one of several acceptable forms of ID under Pate’s bill. Unlike many states considering a voter ID bill, this measure does not require a photo component.

Rizer said he may include additional changes to the legislation when it comes up for a committee vote on Tuesday. He also indicated a public hearing is expected on the bill.

The two Democrats on the five-person subcommittee failed to convince Rizer to hold another meeting to review the amendment, which was not discussed during the meeting.

“This is an important bill. It impacts all voting Iowans, or future voting Iowans,” said Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City. “In our mind, it’s something that’s moving very quickly without adequate input or opportunity for voters to weigh in.”

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