The head of a Senate panel that oversees state election laws on Wednesday called for a hearing next week to consider evidence that inaccurate voting eligibility information from Iowa’s Secretary of State’s office resulted in three valid 2012 ballots cast in Cerro Gordo County being improperly rejected.
Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, said two of the voters whose ballots were disqualified were not convicted felons, and one had his voting rights restored by former Gov. Tom Vilsack. The situation came to light when the provisional ballots cast in the 2012 general election were checked for possible fraud but it instead was discovered the ballots were legitimate and should have been counted rather than rejected, he said.
Danielson said the situation raises concerns about some 46,000 voters whose names are on a list of felons used for election verification. He plans to hold a hearing next week at the Statehouse and request Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to answer questions about why his office distributed inaccurate information to county auditors, how many valid ballots cast by eligible voters in other counties were rejected, and what steps he has taken to ensure the problem isn’t repeated in future elections.
“This is a serious issue,” Danielson said. “They should have been legitimate, legal registered voters if the list was accurate. The list was inaccurate.”
“We consider this a serious violation of people’s right to vote,” he added. “It is inexcusable that ballots cast by eligible voters were not counted because of bad information from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.”
Danielson said the concerns were raised in a Jan. 28 letter from Cerro Gordo County Auditor Ken Kline, a Republican, to Schultz. In his letter, Kline said “intensely” dislikes notifying a voter that a ballot was rejected and to have rejected a ballot based on an error or incorrect information “is troubling to say the least.”
Schultz’s spokesman Chance McElhaney said the Secretary of State’s office is given information generated by 99 different clerks of court.
“Concerns about the accuracy of the list should be addressed to the State Court Administrator and the 99 clerks of court, not the Secretary of State's office,” he said.“This is why it’s important that the DCI voter fraud investigations are happening. Without DCI’s expertise looking into this, those three voters would still be listed as felons,” McElhaney added. “As we’ve said all along, this effort is to improve the administration of federal elections by making sure ineligible voters aren’t voting, but also to protect eligible voters. Barring a change in the law, the DCI investigation is the only proven method to fix this specific problem.”