A Polk County court has struck down a controversial rule issued by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz meant to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. Judge Scott D. Rosenberg found that Schultz, a Republican who has built his reputation and focused his office on ballot security issues, exceeded his authority in adopting the rule. The order invalidates the rule and assesses costs associated with the case to Schultz’s office. A spokesman for the secretary said his office plans to appeal. The rule at issue set out a process for identifying and removing non-citizens from Iowa’s voter registration list first by screening registered voters against state and national lists of noncitizens and then running suspected foreign nationals through the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database. Voters identified as ineligible would then be referred to their local county auditor, who would initiate a challenge to their registration.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa.
“The long-fought decision today affirms that the Secretary of State may not avoid the legislative process in executing the duties of his office,” ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said in a statement. “The SAVE database was not designed to provide an accurate, reliable, or complete check on the citizenship of registered voters, and its use for such was never approved by the Iowa General Assembly.”
She added, “The right to vote is fundamental and should never be used as a divisive tool for political gain.”