Sunday, March 15, 2015

For once, good sense prevails

“Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.” ― Joseph Stalin

BE STILL my heart. Something actually went right. A victory for inclusiveness and sense has taken place in my home state of Iowa.

The vigilante quest of former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has been stopped cold. And here's what I have to say: Praise the lord and pass the voter registration forms. 

In the two years that Mr. Schultz chased apparitions he spent $250,000, resulting in "fewer than 10 convictions." BTW: Can't either this reporter or the Office of the Secretary of State count? What the heck does "fewer than 10 mean"? Nine? Eight? Seven? 

Since we can't have, say, 9.5, the most it could be is nine cases. That means Mr. Schultz spent $27,777 for each incidence of voter fraud he found.

As fate would have it, Paul and I worked for the three previous Secretaries of StatePaul Pate (in his first tenure as SOS), Chet Culver and Michael Mauro — prior to Mr. Schultz occupying the office. Our company designed a state fair exhibit for each as well as assorted other educational collateral material, and we liked working with all of them. 

Then Mr. Schultz was elected. Let's just say he wasn't our cup of tea; he came across as monomaniacal, xenophobic and power-hungry. Since he knew we really liked his predecessor, I don't think he was that crazy about us either, and by what I'd call tacit mutual agreement, we did no work for Mr. Schultz.

Below is a Des Moines Register article about the end of his quixotic quest.

Controversial Iowa voter rules will not take effect
By Jason Noble
March 13, 2015

Voter registration rules enacted by former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz that critics said threatened to disenfranchise eligible voters will not take effect, after a long-running lawsuit was resolved on Friday.

The Secretary of State's Office — now held by Paul Pate — voluntarily dismissed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court that was initiated by Schultz last year following a loss at the district-court level.

"This is an important victory for the protection of voters' rights in Iowa," American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said in a statement. "It means that Iowans will not have to worry about the voter purges we've seen take effect in other states with a disastrous impact, especially for new U.S. citizens and Latinos."

By declining to continue the appeal, the state has effectively concluded the lawsuit and allowed the lower-court ruling to stand. That means the rules will never take effect.

In a statement, Pate said he voluntarily declined to continue the appeal after consulting with the Attorney General's Office and will focus now on "building the most accurate voter registration list for Iowa."

"I will use my authority to the fullest extent of state and federal law to ensure accurate voter lists," Pate said. "There are other ways to accomplish the same goal without pursuing a course with significant legal hurdles."

The rules, written in 2012, had set out a process for identifying and removing noncitizens from Iowa's voter registration list first by screening registered voters against state and national lists of noncitizens and then running suspected foreign nationals through the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database.

Voters identified as ineligible would then be referred to their local county auditor, who would initiate a challenge to their registration.

Schultz's office argued the measures would make Iowa's voting system more secure by closing loopholes that could allow noncitizens to vote.

That process was challenged almost immediately by the ACLU of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and never actually took effect. They likened the rules to "voter purge" efforts seen in other states and said reliance on out-of-date databases could disqualify eligible voters.

Last March, a Polk County judge ruled that Schultz exceeded his authority in issuing the rules, invalidated them and assessed costs associated with the lawsuit to the Secretary of State's Office.

"The Court finds that the Respondent lacked the statutory authority to promulgate Rule 721-28.5 as it conflicts with Iowa Code section 48A.30, and a rational agency could not conclude the rule was within its delegated authority," the judge wrote in the 2014 ruling.

LULAC of Iowa State Director Joe Enriquez Henry called Friday's development "a huge victory for voters in Iowa."

"We've been able to achieve here in Iowa what others have failed in other states, and that is to protect our right to vote on Election Day without intimidation from state elected leaders or fear of consequences," he said.

Both Pate and Schultz are Republicans. Schultz made voter fraud his signature issue during his single term in office from 2011 through 2014, pressing for tighter scrutiny over registration, pursuing criminal investigations into suspected voter and championing photo-ID requirements at the ballot box.

In perhaps his highest-profile effort, Schultz contracted with the Iowa Department of Public Safety to assign an officer full-time to investigating voter fraud allegations. That two-year effort cost nearly $250,000 and resulted in fewer than 10 convictions.

Schultz ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, and was elected instead as Madison County attorney.

Pate, in his statement, added that he remains committed to ballot security.

"I will not tolerate diluting the power of the vote by allowing ineligible people to participate at the polls," he said. "We are continuing efforts that ensure verifiable voter identification."

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