The revelation this week of Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s move to drop ineligible names from the state’s voter rolls and change the process for voter-fraud investigations ushers Iowa into a national debate over ballot security and voter suppression. The rules enacted by Schultz, a Republican, lay out a process for his office to compare the names of Iowa’s 2.1 million registered voters to state and federal lists of foreign nationals who live in Iowa, with the goal of singling out those ineligible to vote. They also add procedures for filing voter fraud complaints that critics say remove a requirement in Iowa law that the person complaining must file a sworn statement. In a statement, Schultz said the new rules would strengthen ballot integrity in Iowa and improve due process for voters suspected of being ineligible.
Still, his actions move Iowa into the latest battle of what election law expert Richard L. Hasen calls the “Voting Wars.” Republicans and Democrats have been fighting for the last several years over changes to election law requiring more scrutiny on registration and more stringent proof of identity at the ballot box. “This fits into a broader struggle that has accelerated since the contested 2000 election, where the rules for our elections are … up for grabs and being implemented along party lines,” said Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine.