Our View: Time for Schultz to stand down on non-existent voter fraud

The Iowa Secretary of State’s witch-hunt is taking the state in the wrong direction

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is making headlines again.

He’s on a politically motivated crusade to restrict voting for everyday people and hardworking families. His witch-hunt for non-existent voter fraud is taking Iowa in the wrong direction.

We need universal voter registration and big money out of politics, not more voter intimidation and suppression.

Earlier this year, Schultz tried to push so-called “Voter ID” through the Iowa legislature. Voter ID is a deliberate attempt by conservatives to disenfranchise low-income voters and people of color, seniors, immigrants, and students.

After Voter ID legislation stalled at the statehouse, Schultz tried – through “emergency rule-making” – to purge voters before the November 6 election, a move that was stopped by a temporary court injunction in a case brought by the Iowa ACLU and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa.

But Schultz also issued new voting rules that have been criticized as overly broad and confusing because they state that poll workers may ask voters to show photo ID if the voter has had their right to vote challenged or is not known by precinct election officials.

Iowa CCI members saw the problems this creates first-hand. On Election Day we documented three cases where voters were initially turned away in Precinct 35 in Des Moines for not having a photo ID, even though they were all registered voters and not required under Iowa law to show ID.

Schultz has also used federal Help America Vote Act money to pay for a probe of alleged voter fraud in Iowa, which is a misuse of federal tax dollars.

Now Schultz is back on the voter purge bandwagon and is proposing legislative changes that would require signature verification for absentee ballots, which is a bad idea for several reasons.

Number one, voter fraud is a non-existent problem in Iowa (unless you consider Schultz’s attempts to restrict the vote a form of fraud, which I do).

Number two, Iowa already has a nationally-recognized absentee verification process that works just fine and should be expanded, not replaced.

Number three, signature verification would almost certainly be very expensive, and the state of Iowa needs to prioritize funding to fix real problems.

Number four, signature verification cannot effectively work. People’s signature style changes over time, even day to day, and such a system would almost certainly cause eligible, registered voters to be disenfranchised over minor changes in their signature.

Schultz needs to stand down on non-existent voter fraud and instead work on real “money out, people in” fixes to expand voting rights.


Written by Hugh Espey, executive director of the Iowa CCI Action Fund.

Originally appeared in the 11.29.12 Des Moines Register Opinion Page and on the Register’s A Better Iowa opinion site.


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