The Iowa chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa have sued Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) over a rule that aims to remove names from voter rolls if a federal immigration database suggests they are not authorized to vote. The ACLU and the LULAC filed a legal motion in Iowa’s Polk County on Wednesday asking the judge to issue a ruling in the lawsuit, originally filed last year, and permanently block Schultz’s rule. Schultz was given tentative permission to use the rule Aug. 14. If the judge approves the request, the activists will have successfully stopped the proposed voter roll purge. The rule in question allows Schultz’s office to cross reference self-identified non-citizens on voter registration rolls with the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, which the Department of Homeland Security operates. The SAVE program retains information on immigrants in the country on a temporary visa. If a non-citizen on the SAVE list is also listed as a registered voter a letter is sent to the registrant telling him or her that he or she might be illegally registered to vote. If the voter does not respond to that first letter, a second letter is sent reminding “the individual that registering to vote without citizenship is a felony,” according to Schultz’s office. After the second letter a voter might have to appear before a hearing to present evidence on voter eligibility.
“If the person cannot prove citizenship after this process, the office will forward the information to the county and after their registration has been challenged, the county auditor must hold a hearing to determine the eligibility of the voter,” also according to Schultz’s office. Joseph Henry, president of the LULAC, said Schultz’s effort is just to intimidate Latino voters. “He wants to use it so he can have leverage to send out scare letters,” Henry said.
The lawsuit additionally argues that Schultz doesn’t have the authority to enforce the rule.
The flaw in Schultz’s system, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Professor Daniel Tokaji said to TPM on Thursday, is that the SAVE program was not designed for keeping track of legal voters. Tokaji stressed that he had not examined the case closely but said that the type of cross-referencing Schultz wants to do under the rule creates the possibility that legal voters are mistakenly purged from voter rolls.
“There are just a lot of mistakes in these databases including voter registration rolls including mistyped addresses” or other basic information, Tokaji said.