Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz did not have the authority to create a new rule aimed at ridding voter registration rolls of voters who didn’t appear to be U.S. citizens, a judge said Wednesday. Polk County Judge Scott Rosenberg delivered a victory to the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, which sued Schultz over the rule. He tried to pass it as an emergency rule just before the November 2012 general election. Another judge halted the rule before the election, concluding that it created confusion and mistrust in the voter registration process. Schultz, however, proceeded to pass a similar rule through the regular rulemaking process last year but it too was halted by Rosenberg, who in September issued a temporary injunction preventing Schultz from acting on it until the court could further review the legal questions. Rosenberg said then that the rule would have a chilling effect on the right to vote and could cause irreparable harm.
The lawsuit claims Schultz does not have the legal authority under Iowa law to push forward a voter removal rule.
Rosenberg said in his ruling Wednesday that state law does not authorize Schultz to create a rule that would cancel a voter’s registration based on citizenship questions.
A state law allows cancellation of voter registration only for six reasons: if a voter dies, registers in another jurisdiction, requests cancellation in writing, is convicted of a felony, is declared incompetent, or has been inactive for two successive general elections.