Judge Nixes Iowa Voter Purge, Warning Of Irreparable Harm

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz defending two emergency rules he passed at the Statehouse in 2012.

An Iowa judge issued another blow to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) dogged attempts to launch a voter purge, permanently striking down a rule that judges have repeatedly found chills the state’s voting rights. Polk County Judge Scott Rosenberg concluded that Schultz did not have the authority to purge voters from the rolls on suspicion that they might be non-citizens, and that his efforts could cause irreparable harm.

This is at least the third court ruling against Schultz’s attempts to purge the voter rolls, based on illusory claims of non-citizen voting. In 2012, a judge struck down Schultz’s attempt to pass an emergency rule just before election, finding confusion about felony charges might deter qualified voters from even registering in the first place. Schultz later passed a new rule, which Rosenberg temporarily blocked in September. Wednesday’s ruling permanently strikes down Shultz’s atttempts to remove names from the voter rolls by checking their status on state and federal lists, unless an appeals court overturns the decision. A representative for Shulz told the Associated Press he plans to appeal.

Schultz has made voter suppression a priority since his election in 2010, citing alleged voter fraud, even though evidence of such fraud is virtually non-existent, even by Schultz’s own calculation. When probed during a Senate hearing about instances of fraud, Schultz cited just six arrests — not convictions — out of 1.6 million votes cast. And this was after a special agent was designated to specifically target voter fraud. Schultz has nonetheless inflated the scope of the problem, citing lists of thousands of immigrants, all or most of whom likely naturalized before they registered to vote. “I have to do something,” he said. “I can’t just sit back and do nothing when we know people are taking advantage of the system.”

In addition to legal questions about Schultz’s authority to cancel voter registration based on citizenship questions, an audit of the voter purge program found that he might be improperly using federal funds in his effort.