“Iowa’s New Voter-ID Law Would Have Disenfranchised My Grandmother”

Ari Berman for The Nation:

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.

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