Judge Declines to Throw Out Voter Suppression Lawsuit Against Iowa Secretary of State

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
September 12, 2012 3:51 pm

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Des Moines, IA. – Today Fifth Judicial District of Iowa District Judge Mary Pat Gunderson denied the Iowa Secretary of State’s request to throw out a lawsuit against him. Schultz argued that The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa have no legal standing to block his new rules that will suppress Iowa voting, especially among Latinos.

In July, the ACLU discovered that Schultz had been working without lawful authority and virtually in secret to make two new administrative rules that would 1) allow him to attempt a purge of Iowa’s highly reliable, accurate voter registration list and 2) make it easier for people make complaints of voter fraud with fewer consequences for false allegations.

Schultz said he is hunting for non-citizens who want to vote. Advocacy groups say there is no indication of this type of voter fraud and Schultz has been unable to show any. Further, his actions will have a chilling effect that will intimidate Latino citizens who are perfectly eligible to vote.

Schultz had requested that the lawsuit be dismissed, but Gunderson, in her opinion today wrote, “[T]here are allegations that implicate surprise, secrecy, fraud, and deceit.” Because it involves the right to vote it is a situation “of utmost importance” where “constitutional protections are most needed,” she wrote.

We’re heartened that the case will proceed, because this is an issue of great importance to voters in this state,” said Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa Legislative Director. “The Secretary exceeded his power. He’s using unreliable information to target registered voters.”

“Iowa has a strong and proud history of free and fair elections,” Bettis said. “We all believe that only eligible, qualified Iowans should be voting. But that’s not all we believe. We also believe that every eligible, qualified Iowan should be free to exercise this most profound right of citizenship.”

“Schultz said yesterday that he is investigating individuals for voter fraud through DCI even with this lawsuit pending, even without access to the federal database. Even those individuals don’t yet know who they are,” Bettis said. “And there is simply no evidence they were still noncitizens at the time they registered to vote. The Iowa DOT doesn’t update a person’s records at the time he or she becomes a U.S. citizen. It’s not an agency designed to collect and maintain citizenship data on everyone in Iowa for the purpose of checking voting records, after all. Neither, by the way, is the SAVE database, as federal officials have told the Secretary.”

“The Secretary has produced absolutely no evidence of noncitizen voter fraud,” said Bettis. “His inability to do so is unsurprising. Why would an immigrant be willing to risk facing prison time, deportation, and losing the chance to ever become U.S. citizens to vote for even their favorite politician?”

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