Iowa’s top election official enacted controversial rules in July that he claims will prevent voter fraud. Secretary of State Matt Schultz made his case before the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee today. He started by explaining what the new rules are not.
“This is not what other states have done. I would say this is an anti-purge rule. Nobody has been taken off the lists in Iowa. Nobody,” says Schultz.
Instead, he believes they strike a balance between election integrity and voters’ rights.
“When somebody casts a ballot, you can’t un-ring that bell. If someone is ineligible to vote and they cast a ballot, we can’t take that back,” says Schultz.
The Secretary of State’s office worked with the DOT to identify more than 3500 registered voters who might not be U.S. citizens. Schultz says about a third of them have been voting since 2010. Under his plan, they would be notified and given 30 days to prove their citizenship.
“I noticed some criticism by a number of the elected officials that this did not make sense to them to initiate these emergency rules. This is not an emergency,” says Joe Enriquez Henry, state director of League of United Latin American Citizens.
Critics not only question those numbers, but say Schultz overstepped his authority and should have opened his plan to public input. They are also concerned that he will scare away new voters, especially minorities.
“We feel that they should just stay focused on getting people registered to vote and not trying to knock people off the registration rolls. Inevitably, this is going to target Latino citizens. We know that because we’re the fastest growing community,” says Henry.
Lawmakers aren’t the only ones taking aim at Schultz. The ACLU filed a legal challenge against his new rules. A Polk County judge heard the case last week, but has yet to issue a ruling.