Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said Monday that “everything is on hold right now” after a district court judge’s ruling last week that halted the Iowa Republican from implementing voting rules he established on an emergency basis earlier this year.
Polk County District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson ruled on Friday that Schultz could have followed normal rule-making procedures and that emergency rules were unnecessary before the November election. In so doing, the judge stayed the rules and issued a temporary injunction, which prevents Schultz from enacting them until the court can hear the full arguments of challenges brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa to stop the rules.
Schultz met Monday with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose office is representing the secretary of state, to discuss options going forward.
After that meeting, Schultz’s spokesman Chad Olsen said “they’re still talking through what their options are, but one of the realities of the situation is that given the time frame that we have right now … it is very unlikely that anything will be resolved before the election.
“So that’s part of our consideration right now – what’s practical and what’s not and, essentially, since the emergency rule’s been stayed, that may just freeze things until post-election,” Olsen added. “About the only thing we can do is appeal the stay and it seems to be that that might not be a practical solution given the time frame that we’re in.”
Schultz told a legislative panel last week that he was not trying to give an advantage to any candidates in November, but only doing his job by passing emergency voter rules to make sure that only U.S. citizens vote on Nov. 6.
Based on comparisons of state voter registration and driver’s license records, Schultz said he determined that 3,582 foreign nationals have registered to vote in Iowa since 2008. He said he hoped that access to federal citizenship data would help Iowa officials determine whether noncitizens have voted illegally in past state elections and take steps to prevent anything improper in the future.
However, critics contended the emergency rules – which were implemented without public input – would intimidate Hispanic voters, and perhaps others, and scare them away from voting.
In granting the temporary injunction, Gunderson ruled that the civil rights groups have shown that they and the voters they represent will suffer irreparable harm if the rules weren’t halted. She concluded the rules created confusion and mistrust in the voter registration process. The judge did not rule on the arguments raised by the challenging groups, saying she would consider them at a trial later. In the meantime, she said, current law provides adequate procedure to challenge a voter’s qualification.