My grandmother Sylvia moved from Brooklyn to Iowa when she was 89 years old. It was a culture shock, to say the least. When my mom took her to vote, she complained of the candidates, “There isn’t anybody who’s Jewish!”
I thought of my grandmother, who passed away in 2005 at 99, when the Iowa Legislature passed a strict voter-ID law today. She didn’t have a driver’s license because she never drove (she’d frequently walk two miles from her apartment to the grocery store). Her passport expired long ago. She never had a US birth certificate because she was born in Poland and fled the Holocaust. She used her Medicare card as identification. She didn’t possess any of the forms of government-issued photo identification that Iowa will soon require to vote.
The ACLU of Iowa reports that 11 percent of eligible Iowa voters—260,000 people—don’t have a driver’s license or non-operator ID, according to the US Census and the Iowa Department of Transportation, and could be disenfranchised by the bill. My grandmother, if she were still alive today, would have been one of them.
There’s no evidence the new law is necessary. Iowa has some of the best-run elections in the country. There were only 10 alleged cases of fraud out of 1.6 million votes cast in 2016 and no cases of voter impersonation that a voter-ID law might’ve stopped. The only conviction was a Trump supporter who voted twice because she thought the election was rigged and her first vote wouldn’t count. “We’ve not experienced widespread voter fraud in Iowa,” admits Secretary of State Paul Pate, the architect of the bill. (However, Pate still pushed misleading fraud stats over the objections of his own staff.)
Yet Iowa Republicans, who now control state government for the first time in two decades, say the law is necessary to combat the “perception” of fraud—a perception created by Republicans who alleged for a decade without evidence that such fraud was widespread. “It is true that there isn’t widespread voter fraud,” State Representative Ken Rizer told The New York Times. “But there is a perception that the system can be cheated. That’s one of the reasons for doing this.” The fact that Republicans are pointing to the mere “perception” of fraud as a reason to disenfranchise thousands of voters shows why Trump’s baseless assertions that millions are voting illegally is so damaging.