CEDAR RAPIDS – A general election that went off with hardly a hitch hasn’t changed Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s determination to clean up voter registration rolls.
Now that the election is over, Schultz plan to resume efforts to root out voter fraud as soon as a Polk County District Court judge lifts a temporary injunction preventing him from removing ineligible Iowans from voter registration rolls.
“My position hasn’t changed: If you’re not a citizen you shouldn’t be voting,” the first-term Republican said. “It’s my job to protect the integrity of the vote. If every vote really does count, then it’s important for us to protect that.”
He may get a green light at a Nov. 30 hearing on several motions pending in the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa. They challenged Schultz’s use of emergency rules to change Iowa’s voting procedures after comparisons of voter registration and driver’s license records determined 3,582 foreign nationals had registered to vote in Iowa since 2008. About 1,200 voted in the 2010 general election and that more than 1,400 cast ballots since the 2010 election, Schultz said.
What is unknown, according to the state’s election administrator, is how many of those people became U.S. citizens after they received an Iowa driver’s license, permit or identification card from the state Department of Transportation.
“We’re just trying to make sure we do it in a methodical way so no one gets accused of something they haven’t done,” said Schultz, who has been working with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
He expects more arrests, similar to those announced before the Nov. 6 election.
Schultz, who has had an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent assigned to a two-year term in his office to look into allegations of voter fraud, expect more arrests. So far, three non-citizens have been arrested in Council Bluffs for voting. Two warrants were issued in Page County and another in Dallas County. Two felons were charged with attempting to vote, Schultz said, and similar cases have been referred to the DCI.
Linn County Auditor Joel Miller has referred a couple cases of felons attempting to vote to the sheriff. In another case, a felon is suspected of voting via absentee ballot in Bremer County and in-person in Linn County.
There may be a couple of double voters – people who asked for an absentee ballot, but then showed up at a polling place to vote, said Miller, a Democrat.
“But as far as I know, we had no imposter voters, which is (Schultz’s) big thing with voter photo ID,” Miller said.
Like many of his colleagues, Johnson County Democratic Auditor Tom Slockett shares Schultz’s concern for protecting the electoral process, but initially expressed skepticism about the secretary’s voter fraud campaign.
“If there is information that there is a problem, then I wouldn’t want future election results to be subject to question,” he said.
Miller believes Schultz and auditors want the same thing: Clean voter rolls.
“As long as he is working toward that end goal, I’m on board with that,” Miller said.
Schultz takes zero tolerance approach.
“For me, if anyone is cheating, if a non-citizen is coming into the polls and voting, that’s diluting my vote and your vote and every other legitimate voters’ vote,” he said. “If there’s a way for me to stop it, I want to do that.”
A small number of votes can make a big difference, Schultz added.
“In one case, 22 votes separate a state House race, so any amount of cheating is wrong and if there is something we can do to stop it, we should,” he said.
“This would be the time to do it -- before the next election,” Slockett said. “It’s important the secretary of state be able to resolve his questions … in a way that does not have a chilling effect on those who have become citizens.”
His goal, Schultz said, is to work with the attorney general, auditors and outside groups “to try to make sure we have a rule that works for everybody, that balance voters’ rights with the integrity of the election.”
Jones County Republican Auditor Janine Sulzner wants to do her part, but doesn’t have the resources Schultz has.
“We can’t go out there and prevent fraud if we don’t have access to the information that would help us do more,” she said.
Auditors need access to the same databases as the state, she said.
Without those resources, Slockett added, “the process is dependent on the honesty of the registrant.”
Schultz wants access to a federal database he believes will provide the information he needs to determine the eligibility of those 3,582 foreign nationals registered to vote in Iowa. He’s encouraged that 25 states will be a part of the Kansas Project, a voter registration information sharing system that allows Iowa to track people registered here who have voted in other states.
If auditors get that information on a consistent basis – not just once every four years, they can incorporate it into their processes, Linn County’s Miller said.
Unfortunately, the issue has taken on partisan overtone “with one of the parties having been much more skeptical about this,” Slockett said, referring to Republicans.
“If the people with those concerns can be reassured there is no fraud, that would be a good thing,” Slockett said. “We want everyone to believe voting process is legitimate and the outcomes correct.”
Schultz agrees it’s unfortunate that partisanship has become a factor.
“I don’t think it should be,” he said. “If you don’t agree with law, change it. But the law says you have to be a citizen to vote. I don’t think that’s a partisan issue. I don’t think Iowans think it’s a partisan issue.”