The timing was perfect for Secretary of State Matt Schultz when he ran for office in 2010. The Republican was able to ride a national wave of trumped-up hysteria about hundreds of non-citizens supposedly voting illegally. Schultz made rooting out voter fraud the centerpiece of his campaign, and he won the election, unseating incumbent Michael Mauro. Schultz went on to propose rules seeking to purge ineligible voters from voter lists. This move became the subject of a lawsuit. In July 2012, he struck a deal with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to assign a full-time agent to investigate suspected voter fraud. The state auditor’s office is now reviewing whether it’s appropriate for Schultz’s office to use federal election-improvement money to pay for fraud investigations. After 18 months of scouring the state for voting scofflaws and spending $150,000 in tax money on the effort, what serious problems have been uncovered? None — other than we now know that there isn’t a problem with voter fraud in Iowa and that some Iowans are confused about voting laws.
Schultz’s efforts have yielded criminal charges in a total of 16 cases, according to an investigation by Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble. Five have been dismissed. Five other cases have resulted in guilty pleas. A few involve Canadians who have possibly fled the country. There is no “voter fraud ring” or significant number of people wrongly registering to participate in our democracy.
One of the guilty Iowans includes a mother who cast an absentee ballot on behalf of her daughter who had recently moved out of state and thought she couldn’t register in her new location. When the mother found out her daughter had, in fact, been able to vote, she reported her mistake to the county auditor’s office. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a simple misdemeanor.