Iowa Secretary of State lacked authority to remove voters from list, judge rules

Secretary of State’s office ordered to cover legal fees

Mike Wiser
Published: March 5 2014 | 6:41 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:13 am in

DES MOINES — Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz lacked the authority to create a set of rules that allowed his office to remove voters from a list in certain circumstances, a Polk County judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Scott Rosenberg also ordered the Secretary of State’s office to cover the legal fees of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa Foundation and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, which brought the suit.

“We are reviewing the ruling, and we plan to appeal,” Schultz spokesman Chance McElhaney said.

At issue was Schultz’s proposed rules that would allow his office to compare voter lists to a federal database that included citizenship information.

Iowa Code allows the cancellation of registration in six specific circumstances: when a registered voter dies, when the voter votes in another jurisdiction, when the voter requests cancellation in writing, when the registered voter is a convicted felon, when the voter has been declared incompetent or when the registration record has been inactive for two successive general elections under certain circumstances.

“Since the section expressly mentions six cancellation occurrences, the omission of a citizenship provision implies that (Schultz) is not authorized to promulgate a rule that cancels a registered voter’s registration based upon that criterion,” Rosenberg wrote in his decision.

Joe Henry, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, said the ruling was a victory for Hispanics.

"On behalf of the Latino community in Iowa, we are so thankful that justice has prevailed,” he said in a prepared statement. “The right to vote has been preserved by Judge Rosenberg's ruling!"

 

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