By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES – Efforts by Iowa’s top election official to uncover voter fraud may prove difficult.
A new study analyzed 2,068 alleged cases of voter fraud nationwide and found only 10 cases related to voter impersonation, according to the research from a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie-Knight Initiative.
Iowa had no such cases. Here, Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz has vowed to put a voter ID law in place and prove fraud in the state does exist.
“When you enact these voter ID laws it will basically change the outcome of an election in favor of Republicans by one or two percentage points,” said Seth Masket, an associate political science professor at the University of Denver in Colorado. “Usually, it’s not enough to affect the outcome of the election. But in a close race like this year’s presidential election, it can make a difference.”
Iowa is among the 36 states to pass or propose a voter ID law in the past year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The push for voter ID laws, which is most prevalent in swing states, hasn’t come from one group. Instead, it’s been largely led by Republican office holders and conservative activist groups. Oftentimes, the efforts have been viewed as highly partisan, Masket said.
Those who favor the laws say they prevent voter impersonation and improve the integrity of elections. Those opposing them argue they prevent minorities, college students and the poor from voting. They also say no evidence of such fraud exists, which is what the study funded by the Carnegie-Knight Initiative showed.
Schultz’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment, but he said in a recent news release his only intent is to “work for integrity and honesty in elections.”
“That is what the people of Iowa hired me to do and I take it as a serious responsibility,” he added.
The ACLU of Iowa and League of United Latin American Citizens this month took legal action after Schultz quietly enacted emergency rules allowing his office to remove ineligible people from Iowa’s voter-registration list. They also remove requirements for Iowans to swear to the truth of their statements when alleging voter fraud.
Additionally, Schultz hired an investigator this month from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to find voter fraud. The cost of the investigation has not been disclosed.
“It’s over the edge,” said Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg. “If there are cases of fraud they should be passed on to county attorney for litigation. DCI already has so many of its own issues to resolve. There are 50 some registered sex offenders who we don’t know where they are at. We are better off chasing them than some voter.”
State lawmakers have criticized Schultz’s action, saying he decided without their input, or the public’s. Kibbie has publicly questioned whether it violates a federal law requiring a state to complete efforts to remove the names of ineligible voters no later than 90 days before a general election.
“Matt Schultz is the most partisan Secretary of State in Iowa’s history,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls; he has been heavily involved in improving voting laws in the state. “Every idea he has offered has been a top-down, my-way or the highway approach. He has failed to work with county auditors and hasn’t been interested in any compromise on how to make our elections safer and more efficient.”
Some county auditors also expressed concern — they are responsibe for vetting voter lists so close to the general election in November.
The relationship among auditors and Schultz has been strained since the secretary unseated Democrat incumbent Michael Mauro, a former county auditor. Schultz, however, had no experience, something he acknowledged during his campaign, said Carol Robertson, Mills County auditor and president of the Iowa State Association of County Attorneys.
Auditors were able to put politics aside when Mauro was in office. He had support of both Republicans and Democrats. Schultz has been unable to gain the same bipartisan support, she said.
“I was really hoping this year that I might be able to bring that partnership together and get this resolved,” Robertson said. “But I haven’t and, therefore, we aren’t getting any legislation passed. Legislators want us to be on the same page. Matt is very partisan, and he’s not afraid to admit that.”
Contact Sheena Dooley at [email protected]