After over a year of waiting, two civil rights groups asked a judge Wednesday to kill Iowa’s voter purge once and for all. The rule, which would wipe suspected non-citizen voters from the rolls if they do not verify their citizenship in time, has been in limbo for nearly a year.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa sued last year, protesting that the purge would prevent far more eligible voters from exercising their right than the miniscule number of ineligible non-citizens. The lawsuit has become especially urgent, as Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) recently gained access to a federal database tracking immigrants’ legal statuses, which he plans to use to investigate registered voters.
The Homeland Security database, SAVE, was also used in Colorado and Florida voter purges. Neither state could find virtually any illegal non-citizen voters. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler recently flagged 155 possible non-citizens who voted in the presidential election, but prosecutors are already finding that this list contains verified U.S. citizens. Florida’s purge, meanwhile, caught just one illegal voter.
Iowa, where the non-citizen population is a fraction of Florida’s or Colorado’s, isn’t likely to have much luck, either. Though pro-purge officials claim SAVE is a crucial tool to ferret out voter fraud, the database is relatively outdated and full of minor typos, such as mistyped addresses. The resulting suspect lists are inevitably riddled with errors.
Though the threat of non-citizen voting is negligible, thousands of Colorado and Florida residents — mainly Latino voters — received “scare letters” warning that they could not vote unless they proved their citizenship.
The Iowa purge was temporarily suspended before the presidential elections last year as the lawsuit went forward. However, Schultz was given tentative permission to start screening voters last month. Without a final ruling from the judge, the purge could well resume in time for the 2014 midterm elections.