Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz concludes that “illegal voters are participating in Iowa’s elections.” Actually, the report shows there is very little “fraud” by would-be or actual voters. And the report reveals that Schultz got very little of value in return for the criminal investigation that has cost the state $250,000. From the time he entered office in 2011, Schultz set out to plant the idea that Iowa’s elections are vulnerable to fraud perpetrated by illegal immigrants, convicted felons and other miscreants. After more than two years of beating the bushes for evidence of this fraud, Schultz reported last week that of 238 cases investigated, 27 criminal charges have been filed by Iowa county attorneys. Of those 27 criminal prosecutions, guilt was established in six cases, four cases were dismissed, one defendant was found not guilty, one prosecution was deferred and 15 cases are pending. In a state with nearly 2 million active registered voters, this handful of cases hardly constitutes evidence of a major problem of voter fraud.
In fact, fraud is the wrong word for these cases. The legal meaning of fraud is an “intentional perversion of the truth” that results in injury. Instead, it is likely that the vast majority of these cases were people who did not set out to commit election fraud but rather made a mistake because Iowa’s voter eligibility rules and forms are confusing. Even state and local election officials are uncertain about who is eligible to vote.
The confusion most directly affects people who have felony criminal records, which means they may not be eligible to vote. Some with felony records had their voting rights automatically restored under policies of past governors, but others have not.