By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES – A Polk County judge denied a request to throw out a lawsuit against the Iowa secretary of state, marking a big victory for the two groups challenging emergency rules to purge voter rolls.
Secretary of State Matt Schultz and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is representing Schultz, requested the lawsuit be dismissed because they alleged the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens groups lacked legal standing to challenge the emergency rules.
Judge Mary Pat Gunderson, however, said in her opinion Tuesday that legal standing wasn’t necessary for the case to move forward, because it was based on allegations of surprise, secrecy, fraud and deceit. Dismissing the lawsuit also could affect citizen’s fundamental right to vote due to the timing of the case. The rules would most likely not face scrutiny prior to November election, Gunderson wrote.
“Because it involves the right to vote it is a situation ‘of utmost importance’ where ‘constitutional protections are most needed’,” Gunderson wrote.
Gunderson ruled on the same day Schultz testified before lawmakers, saying his actions were necessary and fair. Members of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee and members of the public, however, questioned the decision and Schultz’s intentions to remove voters so close to the November election. Schultz is a Republican. Those opposed to the measure say the rules stifle votes of minorities.
The decision allows the groups to continue their efforts to obtain an injunction blocking Schultz from moving forward with the rules, which aim to remove alleged noncitizens from Iowa’s voter registration list.
“This is an exciting period,” said Joe Henry, state director of the United Latin American Citizens in Iowa. “We don’t want the same thing to happen in Iowa as what happened in Pennsylvania and Florida. I would like to think our elected leaders have more sense when it comes to voting.”