“Every vote counts.”
Those are the words of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. While Schultz has admitted voter fraud is not currently a big problem in Iowa, it has not stopped him from signing a voter identification bill, which, to opponents, increases the barriers of voting for the elderly, poor and minorities.
“Is it wide spread where we have hundreds or thousands of cases?” asked Schultz. “I don’t think so.”
Schultz said he understands the counter argument and why some may be upset.
“I think that’s because some people misjudge my intentions,” said Schultz. “I just want to have fair and honest elections. I’m not trying to keep anyone from voting.”
Creston Mayor Warren Woods said in the 51 elections he has voted in since the age of 21, he has never seen any voter fraud at an election place.
“I just wonder how we can justify spending all that money to find a couple of people,” said Woods.
According to Schultz, the investigation is being handled by one agent from the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and his office must reimburse DCI $140,000 a year. This amount does not include associated costs of detaining, processing, prosecuting or potentially deporting noncitizen voter fraud offenders.
“I think it’s worth it,” said Schultz. “You might think that’s a waste of money to stop voter fraud ... but I can tell you, I’ve got 3,582 potential cases of noncitizens who voted or registered to vote in the state of Iowa in just in 2010.”
According to Schultz, of those 3,582 potential cases of noncitizens, 1,208 have voted.
Schultz said the 3,582 potential cases were identified by comparing voter registration logs against the Iowa Department of Transportation’s database.
Some opponents of the voter ID bill claim Schultz’s bill is “witchhunt” aimed at the Latino community.
“I got sued over the noncitizen thing,” said Schultz. “They are trying to say I am racist or against Latinos — not true.”
Schultz said he is just matching non-citizens who have a driver’s license voter registration logs.
“My wife is Latina,” said Schultz. “As I said before, I speak Spanish fluently. I love Latino people. This has nothing to do with race. This just has to do with protecting the right to vote.”
Schultz said if noncitizens are identified through his process, he “can’t just start arresting people” because it is unknown if those individuals became citizens between the day they got their driver’s license and the day they voted.
Schultz said he is actively pursuing permission to access a federal database that would provide allow help identify individuals who are not U.S. citizens
According to Schultz, there are also cases of felons voting who haven’t had their voting rights restored and cases of double voting. Since 2011, there have been 10 cases of voter fraud, with another case being announced this week.
According to Schultz, in 2010, six House and Senate seats were decided by 100 votes or less.
“Four of them ... were decided by 36 votes or less,” said Schultz. “So divide that by two. If 50 people would have changed their vote, control would have been flipped. Republicans would have controlled the Senate in the Iowa Senate. Things would have been different. Now go to 2012, if 200 people would have voted differently, Democrats would control the Iowa House.”
Schultz said it is important to protect every vote.
“If someone cheats, that takes a valid vote away from you and me,” said Schultz. “It’s my job we have fair and honest elections.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens filed a lawsuit against Schultz March 29 in Polk County District Court to stop a new state rule that allows documented immigrants to be premptively removed from voter registration lists, should their citizenship be questioned.
The filings ask the court to find the rule, which took effect Mar. 27, illegal and issue a court order that prevents its implementation.
Schultz said he does not want to accuse anybody who is an eligible voter or deter anyone who is an eligible voter from voting.
“We are trying to do our due diligence and due process to those individuals,” said Schultz.
Protecting our right
“Veterans died to give us the right to vote,” said Schultz. “And, they continue to protect that right for us. It’s one of the most important rights we can have.”
Schultz said if someone is not making sure due diligence happens, then laws have become like jay walking.
“No one is held accountable,” he said.
According to Schultz, the problem in the past is no measures have been taken to prevent voter fraud.
“It’s not just all of a sudden people decided to cheat,” said Schultz. “People say there are no cases of voter fraud. It’s because we have never had an investigator look into it. We never had someone doing anything about it.”
Schultz said the process is never going to be perfect, but it is necessary to have someone checking and trying to make sure.
“At the end of the day, when everything is done, the number of investigations, the number of individuals who are arrested, you know, when the two years are over — judge me and let me see if what we did was right or wrong,” said Schultz. “At the end of the day, I’m responsible. I think I’m doing my job.”