Groups Sue To Block Iowa Voter Purge, Fraud Rules
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Civil rights activists filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block Iowa's Republican secretary of state from enacting rules to purge foreign nationals from Iowa's voter registration list and make it easier to file allegations of voter fraud.The American Civil Liberties Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens accused Secretary of State Matt Schultz of abusing his power in a plot to disenfranchise Latinos and other voters ahead of the presidential election in Iowa, a key battleground state."To begin a purge of registered voters so close to the fall elections is unconscionable," said Joseph Enriquez Henry, state director of LULAC, a Latino and Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group.
Schultz issued emergency rules on July 20 — without any public notice or input — giving his office authority to compare Iowa's list of 2.1 million registered voters against lists of foreign nationals living in Iowa obtained from unspecified state and federal agencies. The rules say any matches should be turned over to investigators to determine whether they are the same person and whether they are still non-U.S. citizens who should be ineligible to vote.
If they are thought to be ineligible voters, Schultz's office will send notice telling them they may be illegally registered, a class D felony, and should cancel their registrations immediately. They would be given 14 days to dispute the notice; if they fail to do so, Schultz's office would take steps to remove them from the list. The rules instruct local elections officials to challenge any absentee ballots filed by such voters and to send in their prior voting histories to Schultz's office.
Ben Stone, executive director of the ACLU, said the rules do not even specify which lists of foreign nationals would be used to remove voters, so there's no way to know whether they are accurate. He also said state law requires those making allegations of voter fraud to sign sworn statements, a requirement the emergency rules remove.
Henry, the LULAC official, said that he believed the purge would erroneously identify Latinos in Iowa, especially new citizens and those with last names similar to foreign nationals.