Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has little to show for a voter fraud investigation that has gone on for nearly 18 months and cost the state almost $150,000. Schultz, a Republican who has made ballot security his signature issue since taking office in 2011, struck a two-year deal with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in July 2012 to assign an agent full time to investigating voter fraud cases. Since then, according to figures provided by the secretary’s office, the effort has yielded criminal charges in 16 cases, of which five have resulted in guilty pleas and five have been dismissed. None of the cases has, as yet, gone to trial.The DCI has been paid $149,200 for its efforts so far and could receive up to $280,000 out of the secretary of state’s budget.
Schultz said the investigations have proved the existence of voter fraud in Iowa and bolstered his case for more scrutiny at the polls and verification of voters. “Before, the narrative was that there’s no such thing as voter fraud,” he said. “That’s obviously changed. Iowans expect us to do something when we know there’s a problem.”
Advocates for ballot access and Schultz’s critics, however, say the five guilty pleas prove only that voter misconduct is statistically insignificant — and that it’s generally the result of misunderstandings rather than fraud. “Nationally and in Iowa, we just do not see that voter fraud is a big issue,” said Bonnie Pitz, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Iowa. “The activities from Secretary of State Schultz have just been intimidating,” she said.