Since he took office three years ago, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has focused more energy on revoking peoples’ right to vote than on getting eligible voters to turn out for elections. It seems to us Schultz has had it backward, and now it’s apparent a healthy majority of Iowans agree. According to The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll published March 10, a substantial majority of Iowans surveyed put a higher priority on making sure that “every eligible, registered voter has the opportunity to vote” than on making sure that “no person ineligible to vote slips through the cracks” to cast a vote. Seven in 10 poll participants said assuring the right to vote is more important than eliminating ineligible voters. Only a quarter saw it the other way around. The top priority favored by most Iowans ought to be the top priority of the state’s election officials, from the secretary of state to the 99 county auditors who run elections. That has been the priority of past secretaries of state, including most recently Mike Mauro and, before him, Chet Culver when he was in the job before being elected governor. Schultz, however, launched a relentless campaign to root out ineligible voters.
First, he sought access to an unreliable federal database of illegal immigrants and drafted “emergency” rules that would allow his office to initiate a process for canceling voting rights for suspected non-citizens. Fortunately, a district court judge in Polk County has ruled that Schultz exceeded his authority and ordered a halt to the process.
Schultz also brought a criminal investigator into his office to pursue illegal voters, including felons who illegally registered to vote. This effort, which has planted suspicions about the legitimacy of Iowa’s election process, has cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars and diverted attention from more important voter-registration priorities. Yet it has produced only a handful of cases of improper registrations or voting.