Polk County judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, rejecting Schultz’s argument that a Latino advocacy group and the ACLU have no legal standing to try to block his imposition of new voting rules. District Judge Mary Pat Gunderson said the controversy, which stems from new rules that Schultz instituted in July under emergency rule-making procedures, falls within a special exception to legal limits on who has the ability to bring court cases in certain issues. Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2008 refused to overturn actions by the 2004 Iowa legislature, finding that the Sioux City taxpayer who sued hadn’t satisfied requirements that she 1) be personally involved in the controversy and 2) be seriously injured by the questioned action. According to a ruling filed by Gunderson late Tuesday, “The court in (that case) saw the absence of any allegations implicating ‘fraud, surprise, personal and private gain or other such evils inconsistent with the democratic process’ as diminishing the need to intervene in the activities of another branch of government.
“However, in this case, the court finds the petitioners do in fact make these types of allegations,” Gunderson wrote. “They specifically allege the manner in which Secretary Schultz promulgated the challenged voting rules, in secret and on an emergency basis, amounted to surprise to legislators, county auditors and all Iowans alike. Thus, here petitioners are in effect alleging a ‘perpetration of fraud or deceit’ on the public by the secretary that is ‘inconsistent with the democratic process. Accordingly, the court concludes this is precisely the type of situation the exception to the standing rule was intended to address and which requires the court to intervene…’ Gunderson ruled.
The decision means the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa Foundation and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa can continue their quest to obtain a permanent injunction blocking Schultz from a process intended to purge Iowa voter rolls of people who allegedly aren’t legally authorized to vote. Plaintiffs argued in court papers filed last month that the new rules “contravene public policy, are inconsistent with Iowa statutory law and risk the erroneous deprivation of the right to vote among qualified voters throughout the state of Iowa.”