After 18 months and repeated insistence by top officials that voter fraud is rampant, Iowa’s voter fraud investigation has essentially gone nowhere. The Des Moines Register reported Monday that the investigation, which has cost the state about $150,000 so far, has unearthed a total of 16 cases for criminal prosecution.
Five of these cases have been dismissed, while five others have resulted in guilty pleas. Three guilty pleas were submitted by felons who thought their voting rights had been automatically restored upon getting out of prison, as they would have been before a 2011 executive order by Gov. Terry Branstad (R).
Branstad claimed last year that many Iowans “falsely vote in an area where they’re not eligible” while pushing for a voter ID law that makes voting disproportionately harder for people who are poor, non-white, or elderly. Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), who spearheaded the investigation, has also long argued that the state has a voter fraud problem. He told the Des Moines Register that the 16 cases — which account for .00075 percent of Iowa’s registered voters — prove that voter fraud exists.
However, many of the cases that have not already been dismissed appear to be motivated more by confusion than criminal intent. One woman who pled guilty cast an absentee ballot for her daughter, because her daughter was worried she would not have time to register to vote after a recent move. Another inadvertently registered to vote while getting a state ID card, and was trying to fix the situation himself when he was ensnared by the investigation, according to his attorney. None of the cases have gone to trial yet.
Other states have also come up mostly empty-handed, despite lawmakers’ claims of a voter fraud epidemic. Ohio’s probe similarly turned up voters who were given bad instructions by pollworkers, thought their absentee ballot had gotten lost in the mail, or were simply confused. Colorado has also found a handful of potential perpetrators of voter fraud, many of whom ended up being legitimate voters. An independent investigation in Arizona found just 34 cases of mostly misinformed illegal voters over 8 years. A Florida hunt for illegitimate voters turned up a single non-citizen voter from Canada.