National: Election Assistance Commission says state’s can use federal election grants to pay for voter fraud investigation | Associated Press

States are free to use federal grant money intended to improve how elections are run in order to pay for criminal investigations of potential voter fraud, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has ruled. The commission’s opinion is a relief to election officials in Iowa, who will not have to pay back $240,000 in federal money that was used for a voter fraud investigation that ended last year. But critics of Iowa’s investigation said they were surprised that the commission found that Help America Vote Act funding could be used for such a purpose, and worried that other states could follow suit. “It seems like a real stretch,” said Tom Courtney, an Iowa Democratic state senator who asked the commission’s inspector general to investigate the spending nearly three years ago. “But now with this ruling in their pocket, Iowa and other states might say, ‘all right.’ ” Months before the 2012 presidential election, then-Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz reached an agreement to pay the salary and expenses of a full-time Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent for two years to look into “instances of potential criminal activity” related to voting and elections. The investigation led to charges against 10 non-U.S. citizens and 16 ex-felons accused of casting ballots despite not having voting rights.

Iowa: 2½ years later, Iowa prosecutor drops election fraud case | Associated Press

After 2½ years of delays, a prosecutor has dropped an election misconduct charge against an ex-felon accused of illegally voting in the 2012 presidential election. Jefferson County Attorney Timothy Dille said Wednesday that he concluded the case against Cheri Rupe, 43, “wasn’t something that needed to be pursued” any longer. He said he made his decision in the interest of justice, citing the amount of time that had lapsed and noting that a similar case last year ended in an acquittal. The dismissal is another setback for a state effort to criminally punish ineligible voters who participated — or tried to participate — in elections. Under a two-year investigation involving former Secretary of State Matt Schultz and the Division of Criminal Investigation, about two dozen people, including ex-felons and non-U.S. citizens, were charged with registering and/or voting illegally.

Editorials: Iowa ends voter fraud goose chase | Quad City Times

Former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s two-year, $250,000 witch hunt ended ignobly Friday. Schultz’s successor, Republican Paul Pate, dropped his office’s Iowa Supreme Court appeal of a lower court ruling that held Schultz overstepped his authority in a crackdown on immigrant voters. Schultz had broad-based GOP support as a candidate condemning what he suggested was widespread voter fraud, particularly by documented immigrants who were not citizens. Schultz’s exhaustive investigation compared voter registration lists with federal and state immigration lists, including the federal database used to verify entitlement benefits. So instead of targeting the behavior based on evidence of unlawful voting, Schultz went hunting for voters he suspected might be immigrants.

Iowa: Controversial Iowa voter rules will not take effect | Des Moines Register

Voter registration rules enacted by former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz that critics said threatened to disenfranchise eligible voters will not take effect, after a long-running lawsuit was resolved on Friday. The Secretary of State’s Office — now held by Paul Pate — voluntarily dismissed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court that was initiated by Schultz last year following a loss at the district-court level. “This is an important victory for the protection of voters’ rights in Iowa,” American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said in a statement. “It means that Iowans will not have to worry about the voter purges we’ve seen take effect in other states with a disastrous impact, especially for new U.S. citizens and Latinos.” By declining to continue the appeal, the state has effectively concluded the lawsuit and allowed the lower-court ruling to stand. That means the rules will never take effect.

Iowa: Felon voting task force met only once | Associated Press

A task force created to fix errors in Iowa’s database of ineligible felon voters met once for two hours, failing to resolve a problem that has disenfranchised at least a dozen people, records show. Secretary of State Matt Schultz formed the group in April after finding 12 cases in which errors on the 50,000-name list resulted in the wrongful rejection of ballots from non-felons or people who had their voting rights restored. Schultz said the panel would develop a “long-term solution to fix inaccuracies contained in the state’s felon file. More than four months passed before the group held its first and only meeting Aug. 29, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press under the public records law. “If we get done early, so be it,” then-Secretary of State general counsel Charlie Smithson emailed members before the meeting, scheduled for four hours.

Iowa: Secretary of state candidates play down voter ID | Des Moines Register

The loud cry for voter identification and vote fraud investigation is fading to a whimper as Iowa’s top election official prepares to leave and those running to replace him downplay the politically charged issues. Matt Schultz, who recently was defeated in his bid for the Republican Party’s 3rd Congressional District nomination, was elected secretary of state in 2010 after a campaign largely focused on promoting voter ID and fighting what he argued was problematic voter fraud. Once in office, Schultz unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers for a voter ID law, spent about $250,000 in a two-year investigation of election fraud and tried to pass a voter purge rule for those lacking citizenship proof, which led to a lawsuit.

Editorials: Schultz’s crusade heavy on cost, light on fraud | Des Moines Register

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.

Editorials: Iowa Secretary of State Just Proved That Voter ID Laws Are Unnecessary | ThinkProgress

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), one of the nation’s most enthusiastic voter suppressors, released a report on Thursday outlining the results a two-year investigation into possible voter fraud, conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at his request. But while Schultz has frequently scared Iowa voters with allegations of thousands of possible non-citizens voting in the state and living people showing up at the polls to cast ballots in the name of dead voters, the investigation revealed found an infinitesimal number of illegal votes cast and zero cases of impersonation at the polls. … Nearly two years and $250,000 later, Schultz said that 238 total cases of suspected election misconduct were investigated. Investigators “found evidence of election misconduct in 117 cases that cancelled out the votes of legitimate Iowa voters,” he notes, and 17 more cases are still being investigated. One of those cases resulted in a not-guilty verdict and four cases were dismissed. Combined, that means at most 134 instances of fraudulent voting were found in Iowa over several elections, compared with 1,589,951 votes cast in the 2012 general elections alone. That means, at most, the investigation found a 0.008427933% rate of voter fraud.

Iowa: Final report: 117 fraudulent votes found in investgation, 6 convictions | Des Moines Register

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s two-year investigation into voter fraud found evidence of 117 illegally cast votes, led to charges against 27 suspected fraudulent voters and has resulted in six criminal convictions, according to a report released Thursday. Those results justified the unprecedented partnership between the state’s top election official and the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, as well as the nearly $250,000 cost of the effort, Schultz, a Republican, said. “The takeaway is that there are people who voted who weren’t supposed to,” he said. “This is a situation where we tried to do something about it. I think it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.” Critics have called the investigation a misuse of federal funds intended to expand access to voting and charged that the six convictions prove that voter fraud is a miniscule problem in a state where statewide voter turnout frequently exceeds 1 million.

Iowa: No voting for felons, secretary of state’s office says | Des Moines Register

Iowa felons will continue to be disqualified from voting, even after a court ruling this week indicated that some felonies may not rise to a level that should bar those convicted from voting or holding office. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a second operating-while-intoxicated conviction, an aggravated misdemeanor, did not bar former state Sen. Tony Bisignano from running for state Senate again. Rival Democrat Ned Chiodo challenged Bisignano’s candidacy in the south-side Des Moines district, arguing that second-offense OWI was an “infamous crime” that would strip Bisignano of his voting and office-holding rights. In the ruling, Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote that Bisignano’s aggravated misdemeanor was not an “infamous crime.” Cady also wrote that the court should review in a future case whether some of Iowa’s 777 felony charges also might not rise to a level that would require stripping a person of voting rights.

Iowa: Despite ruling, Iowa to bar all felons from voting | Associated Press

Iowa elections officials will continue to bar convicted felons from voting despite a landmark state Supreme Court ruling that suggests not all of them lost their voting rights, a spokesman said Wednesday. Three justices ruled Tuesday that only some felonies are “infamous crimes” under the Iowa Constitution that bar individuals from voting or holding office. Writing for that group, Chief Justice Mark Cady said only crimes that suggest the offenders “would tend to undermine the process of democratic governance through elections” qualify. Cady said justices would have to “develop a more precise test” in future rulings to define them. The ruling concluded that state Senate candidate Tony Bisignano can hold office even though he had been convicted of second-offense operating while intoxicated, an aggravated misdemeanor. Cady’s opinion invalidated three of the court’s prior rulings dating to 1916, which had held that any offense for which the potential punishment is imprisonment was an “infamous crime.” Cady suggested the new definition followed the intent of authors of Iowa’s Constitution, who wanted to protect the integrity of elections.

Iowa: State finds 12 votes were wrongly rejected in 2012 | Associated Press

At least 12 Iowa residents wrongly had their ballots rejected in the 2012 presidential election because of inaccuracies in the state’s list of ineligible felons, a review found Friday. Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced that nine additional cases of improper disenfranchisement were found during a review launched after it was reported in January that three voters were disenfranchised because of bureaucratic mistakes. The new cases include people who weren’t felons but were wrongly included on the list and former offenders who had their voting rights restored and should have been removed.

Iowa: Matt Schultz to appeal decision invalidating voter registration rule | Des Moines Register

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will appeal the decision handed down last month nullifying rules his office wrote regarding voter registration. The Republican, who has made voter fraud investigations and ballot security efforts the centerpiece of his term in office, on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to review and overturn the March 6 ruling which said he exceeded his authority regulate elections in the state. At issue in the case, American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa v. Schultz, was a rule issued by Schultz’s office to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. The rule outlined a process for identifying and removing non-citizens from Iowa’s voter registration list first by screening registered voters against state and national lists of non-citizens and then running suspected foreign nationals through a federal citizenship database. Voters identified as ineligible were then to be referred to their local county auditor, who would initiate a challenge to their registration.

Iowa: Anderson: Use fed money for poll book expansion, not investigations | Quad City Times

Iowa Secretary of State candidate Brad Anderson said Tuesday he plans to stop the use of federal funds to pay for investigations into alleged voter fraud and instead use the money, as well as other funds, to expand the use of electronic poll books. He also said he plans to clean up a flawed list of ineligible voters. Anderson, a Democrat, was campaigning Tuesday in Clinton, and he released a plan he said represents a clean break from the policies of Republican Matt Schultz, the current Secretary of State who is leaving the office to run for Congress. “Iowa has a history of clean, fair elections, and I believe we should have a chief elections official who recognizes that fact,” Anderson said.

Editorials: Iowa jury rightly decides a mistake is not a crime | The Des Moines Register

Kelli Jo Griffin has a criminal record, but she got her life back on track and wanted to become engaged in her community by voting in a local election. For that act, the state of Iowa accused Griffin of a criminal act that could have put her in prison for up to 15 years. That would have been a personal travesty and a cruel injustice. Fortunately, a Lee County District Court jury acquitted her Thursday on charges she intentionally violated state law by registering and voting even though as a convicted felon she had lost that right. Griffin’s criminal prosecution is a result of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s campaign to go after non-citizens and persons with felony records who have registered or voted in Iowa elections. Griffin’s case, the first to go to trial, clearly illustrates why Schultz’s campaign is so terribly misguided.

Editorials: Former drug offender acquitted at rare voter fraud trial in a rebuke to Iowa crackdown | Associated Press

A former drug offender who believed her voting rights had been restored when she cast a ballot last year was acquitted of perjury Thursday, a public rebuke of Iowa’s two-year investigation into voter fraud. The 12-member jury took less than 40 minutes to reject the prosecution’s argument that Kelli Jo Griffin intentionally lied on a voter registration form she filled out for a municipal election in the southeastern Iowa town of Montrose. It was the first trial stemming from the state’s voter fraud investigation championed by Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz. And it highlighted Iowa’s status as one of just four states in which ex-offenders have to apply to the governor to regain their voting rights, under a 2011 order that has created confusion. Griffin, a 40-year-old mother of three young children and one stepdaughter, would have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted since she was charged as a habitual offender. “I’m glad that I can go back to being a mother,” she told reporters afterward. Griffin had lost her voting rights following a 2008 felony conviction for delivery of less than 100 grams of cocaine. She testified that she believed her right to vote had been restored when she left probation last year, which had been the state’s policy until it was rescinded three years ago by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

Iowa: Schultz’s crusade is out of sync | The Des Moines Register

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.

Iowa: Judge strikes down Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s voter purge efforts | Omaha World Herald

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 ordered the rule stricken and said Iowa’s secretary of state is “enjoined from taking any action” pursuant to the rule. Rosenberg gave 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, saying it could intimidate or unfairly deny votes to immigrants. Schultz 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.

Iowa: Judge blocks rule canceling voter’s registration | Times Republican

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.

Iowa: Court throws out secretary of state’s controversial voter registration rule | The Des Moines Register

A Polk County court has struck down a controversial rule issued by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz meant to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. Judge Scott D. Rosenberg found that Schultz, a Republican who has built his reputation and focused his office on ballot security issues, exceeded his authority in adopting the rule. The order invalidates the rule and assesses costs associated with the case to Schultz’s office. A spokesman for the secretary said his office plans to appeal. The rule at issue set out a process for identifying and removing non-citizens from Iowa’s voter registration list first by screening registered voters against state and national lists of noncitizens and then running suspected foreign nationals through the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database. Voters identified as ineligible would then be referred to their local county auditor, who would initiate a challenge to their registration.

Iowa: Voter fraud investigation concludes; 80 additional cases referred to prosecutors | The Des Moines Register

A controversial investigation into alleged voter fraud has concluded, the investigator leading the effort said Monday. Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Adam DeCamp said Monday that the probe aimed at identifying and prosecuting fraudulent Iowa voters ended Feb. 13, roughly 20 months after it began. Since September, when DeCamp took over as the lead investigator, the effort has scrutinized 245 individual voters. Of those, more than 80 have been referred to county attorneys for possible prosecution. It will be up to prosecutors on whether to bring charges based on the evidence provided by the DCI.

Iowa: Voter fraud probe becomes a numbers game | Sioux City Journal

One vote can determine an election, Republicans intent on fighting voter fraud say consistently. That thought drives a investigation ordered by Secretary of State Matt Schultz and carried out by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to find fraudulent voting in Iowa. “We have evidence that people have gone to the polls and voted when they weren’t supposed to,” Schultz said. “There are several Senate seats that were decided by 20 votes or less.” The actual number from the 2012 and 2010 elections is two, an IowaWatch review of the state’s voting results shows.

Iowa: Election officials unable to verify felons’ rights | The Des Moines Register

Iowa elections officials don’t have a uniform or accurate way to check whether potential voters are ineligible felons — a systematic failure that has resulted in people being wrongly disenfranchised or allowed to vote illegally. In interviews with The Associated Press, state and county officials blame a lack of funding, disparate use of technology at polling places and record-keeping errors. Major shifts in state policy have exacerbated the problem by creating confusion among offenders and bureaucrats. Attorney General Eric Holder called on Iowa and other states Tuesday to restore voting rights for former inmates, saying that millions of citizens are unfairly disenfranchised. He criticized Gov. Terry Branstad’s 2011 order requiring former felons to apply to regain their voting rights instead of having them automatically restored, noting that only a tiny number of ex-offenders have done so.

Editorials: Iowa voter fraud probe fizzles | Quad City Times

Iowa legislators worked over Secretary of State Matt Schultz pretty well at a Monday hearing on Schultz’s personal push to clean up voting rolls. Schultz staked his political career on his high-profile effort to curb voter fraud. Almost immediately after being elected in 2010, he alerted county election officials he was targeting immigrants he believed were voting improperly. County auditors waited and waited for Schultz to follow through. It took more than a year for him to acquire a federal citizenship database to check the legality of perhaps 1,000 Iowa voters Schultz suspected of voting illegally. The $240,000 probe led to 26 arrests of folks who mostly seemed confused, not conspirators.

Iowa: Secretary of state to seek more funds for voter fraud investigation | The Gazette

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will ask the Legislature for $140,000 to pursue voter fraud for another year despite openly hostile criticism from Senate majority Democrats Tuesday for his two-year investigation. Schultz, a first-term Republican, has come under fire for using $240,000 in funds from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to pay for a Division of Criminal Investigation agent to look into voter fraud. HAVA was established after the disputed 2000 presidential election to fund voter education and voter participation efforts. After nearly two years of investigation, 26 people have been charged and five have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. “That’s enough for me to see that we have a problem,” Schultz said. “Twenty-six people cancelling the vote of other Iowans is a big enough problem to keep this going forward.”

Editorials: End voting-law crackdown | The Daily Iowan

It goes without saying that one of the cornerstones of a functioning, modern, liberal democracy is universal suffrage. However, it appears that headlines across the state of Iowa are ringing with actions committed by state officials, which undermine that noble principle. This past week, a Republican official in Cerro Gordo County reported that mistakes made by state election officials led to three voters being barred from voting because they were incorrectly labeled as disenfranchised felons (two of the voters were felons who had had their voting rights restored, while the third was not a felon). This incident is just an anecdote amid Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s overzealous crackdown on the nonexistent threat of voter fraud, a crusade we have often criticized on this page. Firstly, it’s important to note that it is fundamentally immoral to deny anyone the right the vote, even if a citizen committed some sort of criminal offense. Free societies don’t strip their citizens of basic democratic freedoms. Authoritarian regimes do that.

Iowa: Secretary of State, Senators clash over voter registration error | Radio Iowa

References to “being in the hot seat” and “crossing swords” with legislators popped up during Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s appearance before a senate committee this afternoon. Democrats who’ve criticized Schultz for investigating voter fraud focused on the plight of three eligible voters who had their 2012 ballots tossed out because they were mistakenly on a list of ineligible voters. Schultz told legislators it was his fraud investigation that resolved things. “These three people would not have their voting rights today restored and in the system fixed for them were it not for these DCI investigations,” Schultz said.

Iowa: Schultz fights criticism over 2012 rejected votes | Quad City Times

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz defended his office Monday against what he says is unfair criticism after it was revealed that three northern Iowa voters had their ballots tossed out in the 2012 presidential election because they were wrongly classified as felons ineligible to vote. The three voters were required to cast provisional ballots when their names appeared in the database of felons. One man, Matthew Pace, appeared on a list of felons reported to the Secretary of State’s office by the Cerro Gordo County clerk of court in 2007. When he showed up to vote Nov. 6, 2012, his name was flagged and he was told he had to cast a provisional ballot. Cerro Gordo County election officials contacted the Secretary of State’s office to check the status of the voters with provisional ballots, and Schultz’s office confirmed the three individuals were on the felons list. Schultz, a Republican, frequently has faced criticism from Democrats and civil rights groups for his aggressive pursuit of voter fraud. His critics say his investigations intimidate immigrant and minority groups and scare many away from voting. Schultz has hired an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent to investigate the issue for two years at a cost of $280,000 in federal funds.

Editorials: Schultz’s hunt for fraud disenfranchises eligible voters | Iowa City Press Citizen

Last week, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced the state was filing charges in nine additional voter fraud cases — all concerning felons who voted in the 2012 general election without having had their voting rights restored. We’ve already opined repeatedly against Schultz’s instance on playing Captain Ahab to what he views as the White Whale of statewide voter fraud. And so far — despite Schultz’s having pledged to spend more than a quarter-million dollars on such investigations — that White Whale has seemed more like a minnow. And we’ve likewise opined repeatedly against Gov. Terry Branstad’s issuing an executive order to stop Iowa from automatically restoring the voting rights of felons once they have paid their debt to society. Branstad’s order nullified the one issued by his predecessor, Tom Vilsack, and created an incredibly complicated situation for determining which ex-felons have the right to vote and which ex-felons, if they cast a vote, risk committing yet another felony.

Editorials: Schultz’s crusade punishes voters | The Des Moines Register

A felony record can make it next to impossible to find a job and build a successful life, and in Iowa felons also lose the right to vote. Now these social outcasts face the possibility of criminal prosecution if they mistakenly register to vote. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s misguided crusade to expose voting fraud has produced no evidence of voting irregularities, but it has ensnared several people whose crime was making a mistake. These are people with felony records who registered to vote, either because they did not understand the state’s confusing registration form or because they mistakenly thought their rights had been restored. Besides discouraging Iowans with criminal records from trying to exercise their right to vote, which is in society’s interest, it now is clear that Schultz’s crusade has wrongly denied some Iowans the right to have their ballots counted. That is based on the Cerro Gordo County auditor’s discovery that he wrongly rejected ballots cast by three voters in the November 2012 presidential election on the basis of a flawed criminal-records database. If this occurred in one county, it almost certainly happened in other Iowa counties, too, as there are 46,000 names in the database. It is impossible to say how many Iowans’ votes have wrongly been rejected, but it is an outrage whatever the number.