Rules proposed by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to guide a new process for verifying voter eligibility weathered nearly two hours of near-universal criticism during a public hearing on Thursday. More than 40 people weighed in, variously accusing Schultz, the state-level elections administrator, of overreaching his authority, wasting state dollars pursuing non-existent voter fraud and intimidating immigrants who have a legal right to vote. The rules concern a months-long effort by Schultz, a Republican, to gain access to a federal immigration database to check the citizenship status of thousands of registered voters in Iowa that his office has tagged as potentially ineligible to vote.
That effort has been on hold for months as Schultz’s office has tried to gain access to the database, although a parallel investigation into suspected ineligible voters by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has continued.
Schultz contends the efforts are necessary to ensure Iowa’s ballots are secure and that valid votes aren’t canceled out by invalid votes cast by noncitizens.
Not many of those gathered Thursday at the Lucas State Office Building in Des Moines and other sites around the state agreed with him, however. Among those who offered comment, just two said anything that might be construed as support for the rules or enhanced ballot security efforts in general.
Jo Rod, of Ames, who said she’d been a poll worker for the last 17 years, said the rules amounted to “voter suppression.”
“It’s going to make it more difficult for some people to vote,” Rod said. “They’re going to be challenged and they’re going to give up. I thought in our country everyone should have right to vote.”