Matt Schultz may be hurting, not helping voter I.D. cause

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: October 24 2012 | 11:32 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:27 am in
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By Sioux City Journal

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Nearly 70 percent of Iowans support legislation requiring voters to present a form of identification, according to a recent TIR-Voter/Consumer Research Poll. Only 29 percent somewhat or strongly oppose such rules.

As we’ve written in this space before, it is clear to us that Iowa is ready for a voter I.D. law. Not only do the majority of Iowans support it, requiring voters to present some form of identification at the polls just makes sense.

We don’t buy the argument that a larger number of voters can’t gain access to some form of legal identification. For those who can’t, a fair and equitable law would allow for some exceptions that could require a signed affidavit and other measures. In short, a voter I.D. law can be constructed in a way that does not discourage or prevent anyone from voting.

We know Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz agrees with us, and we are confident he and the Legislature could work out a reasonable bill if everyone sat down at the table willing to do so. Unfortunately, Schultz has turned a reasonable, principled position into a political sideshow that threatens to derail his efforts, irreparably damaging his own cause.

Democrats and others who oppose voter I.D. laws have tried to combat the move by claiming such legislation is a solution in search of a problem. They believe little to no voter fraud exists. Statistically, they are correct, but that argument against voter I.D. simply isn’t logically sound.

Instead of dismissing it and focusing on a common-sense campaign with which most Iowans agree, however, Schultz took the bait and went off the deep end. He has used federal Help America Vote Act funds to pay for a probe of alleged voter fraud in Iowa, enlisting an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent to pursue what appears to us to be a purely political agenda.

The few charges that have been filed, and later trumpeted in press releases, have done little to persuade anyone that voter fraud is a pervasive problem in Iowa. If anything, Schultz, through what we view as nakedly political activity, has played into the hands of Democratic opponents who argue his real agenda is to keep likely Democratic voters (seniors, the poor, minorities) away from the polls.

When Iowa Sen. Tom Courtney, a Democrat, held a press conference to question the use of federal funds to pursue voter fraud, Schultz blasted him (ironically) by claiming Courtney was engaging in “political grandstanding.”

“Shame on Tom Courtney for trying to block criminal investigations into voter fraud and election misconduct,” Schultz said in a released statement.

We haven’t heard much from Schultz since that early October dustup. We hope that means others who support voter I.D. laws have taken him aside and helped him understand his rhetoric and actions are hurting, not helping, the cause.

While we admire passion and fire in our elected officials, Schultz would be wise to turn the volume down a notch and return to the common-sense approach that will help get such legislation passed.

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