Rod Boshart, CR Gazette -
A top Senate Democrat on Tuesday criticized Iowa’s Republican secretary of state for “undermining” the voting rights of Iowans by enacting emergency rules to purge foreign nationals from the state’s voter registration list and make it easier to file allegations of voter fraud.
“I am very disappointed with Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s handling of the most important duty of his office: ensuring the right of Iowans to vote,” Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee.
Kibbie, a long-time member of the rule panel, called it an “unusual step” to issue emergency rules affecting election on July without any public notice or input. Kibbie said the committee requested that Schultz attend Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the change and to explain why his office chose not to follow the normal procedures to allow public review before the rules were adopted, but “he declined to publicly defend his actions.”
The secretary of state’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
However, in response last week to a lawsuit filed against Schultz regarding the procedures for removing ineligible non-citizens from voter registration rolls in Iowa, Schultz said he believed the concerns were unfounded and that the rules would enhance the due process available to anyone subject to removal. He also said that, working with the Iowa Department of Transportation, his office had identified 1,000 registered voters who potentially are not U.S. citizens.
Schultz said the emergency rules were enacted to clarify to the federal government and to the public the legal process that would be used to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls. The new rules, he added, enhance the due process available to individuals identified through the effort and each would be given a hearing before being removed from the voter rolls.
Kibbie said a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens raises serious questions about the legality of Schultz’s efforts — whether he is threatening the due process of legal voters; whether it could disenfranchise Iowans who are legally registered to vote; and whether it violates federal election laws. The lawsuit accuses Schultz of abusing his power in a plot to disenfranchise Latinos and other voters ahead of the presidential election in Iowa — a key battleground state.
“Protecting the right of Iowans to participate in the Nov. 6 general election is the greatest responsibility Secretary Schultz will face since his own election in 2010,” Kibbie said in his statement. “If he has evidence that someone has broken Iowa’s election laws, the law requires him to immediately turn over that evidence to the appropriate county attorney for investigation and prosecution. If not, he should immediately withdraw his emergency rules and abandon this half-baked scheme.”
An Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent has been assigned to work full-time with Schultz’s office to look into allegations of voter fraud, state officials said last week.