By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation charged three Council Bluffs residents who are not U.S. citizens with election misconduct Thursday for allegedly illegally casting election ballots.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who is a Republican, recently hired a DCI investigator to look into potential cases of fraud among noncitizens. Schultz gave the investigator a list of more than 1,000 names, despite a court-ordered injunction to halt his investigation. His office contracted with the department for two years at a rate of up to $140,000 a year, Schultz has said.
The charges come despite a court order last week that halted emergency voting rules Schultz quietly adopted in July to vet voter lists and compare questionable immigrants with a federal database that gives their up-to-date citizenship status. Polk County Judge Mary Pat Gunderson ordered an injunction until the court has settled a lawsuit brought against Schultz by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and an Iowa Latino advocacy group.
It’s a felony in Iowa for noncitizens to vote. The three people arrested include Albert Harte-Maxwell, 52; Linda Harte-Maxwell, 49; and Maria Ayon-Ferandez, 40. Ayon-Ferandez is a Mexico native, while the Harte-Maxwells are Canadian citizens.
Court documents show that Ayon-Fernandez was born in Mexico but lived in California most of her life, where she was also registered to vote. She believed she was a U.S. citizen but could not immediately provide the paperwork to prove it. The Harte-Maxwells both said they thought they were only ineligible to vote in presidential elections, they told the investigator.