The most recent version of the Photo ID bill under consideration in the Iowa legislature contains a provision which would require delivery of absentee ballots to residents of assisted living facilities by two person, bipartisan special precinct teams.  This provision is unrelated to the issues involved with photo ID requirements.  It would not increase voting privacy or ballot security for these voters.  However, it would increase the cost of elections.

Current law requires this kind of absentee ballot delivery for nursing home residents and hospital patients.  In the 2012 General Election 290 residents of nursing homes voted.  Our office employed six teams to deliver absentee ballots to 271 of these residents, or 95 percent of the total voting.  An additional nineteen residents voted at the polls. 

This law was first enacted in the 1970s to ensure that residents of nursing facilities were allowed to vote in private, without undue influence or interference by third parties.  Due to their infirmities, nursing home residents are very dependent on facility staff, and so could be subject to such interference, either real or perceived.  

But can the same be said for residents of assisted living centers?  In Scott County 356 residents of assisted living centers voted in the 2012 Presidential Election; 316 voted by absentee ballot, 40 voted at the polls. The Auditor’s Office did not receive any complaints about staff from these centers attempting to influence residents on how to cast their ballots. 

Also, the forty residents who voted at the polls amounted to 11 percent of the total number of residents who voted.   Generally, residents of assisted living centers are significantly healthier and better functioning than nursing home residents.  They are not dependent on the help of others to nearly the extent of nursing home residents. 

Because assisted living residents have better health, greater mobility, and lesser dependence on others than nursing home residents there is not the need to have special bipartisan teams help these residents with voting. 

Further, requiring 316 people to vote an absentee ballot only through these special circumstances will more than double the cost of these teams.  During the 2012 General Election the approximate wage and administrative costs for the seven teams used in that election were $2,510.00 and $1,250.00, respectively.  We estimate the wage cost for an expanded program of 13 teams would be $5,670.00 plus administrative costs of $2,810.00.  This change would increase election costs by an estimated $4,720.00; more than double the cost to Scott County for providing absentee ballots to these voters. 

Finally, there is another cost to this proposal; the freedom and self-respect of the residents in assisted living.  Our office already receives complaints from nursing home residents about being forced to receive their ballots from the special teams.  These complaints will increase in number and volume from people who will see this as an affront to their dignity and independence.