Voter probe’s ROI is low

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: March 7 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:15 am in

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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One of the Iowa secretary of stateís primary duties is being the state commissioner of elections, supervising the 99 county auditors in the administration of election laws and administrative rules.

This is an elected office and each officeholder has put some personal stamp on their time of service. Matt Schultz has made rooting out voter fraud a top priority.

Heís gone to great lengths, in particular by hiring an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent to conduct a lengthy investigation. To pay for it, Schultz is using federal Help American Vote Act dollars. The probe has concluded, with $150,000 paid to the DCI so far and the final bill expected to be much higher.

HAVA, approved in 2002, is supposed to help states improve voting systems and voter access. Whether Schultzís investigation was a proper use of HAVA funding is being reviewed by a federal panel.

We donít think using HAVA money was appropriate. He should have found state funds. Most important, we donít think the results of the investigation were worth the time and money.

Since it was launched 20 months ago, the DCIís efforts have led to five voters pleading guilty, although there was no evidence for most of them that they intentionally violated the law. Fifteen other cases are pending. Several dozen others are being considered by county attorneys for possible prosecution.

Thatís it.

And while there may be more convictions, the numbers wonít prove thereís any widespread or even very significant voter fraud problem in Iowa. They also donít support one of Schultzís other major quests: a voter ID law.

Iowaís voting system is one of the nationís cleanest, though certainly not perfect. No one who cares about ensuring the integrity of voting wants to see it abused.

Schultzís intent may be admirable but the investigationís return on investment has been puny. Letís move on. Look for other ways he and county auditors can improve the voting process.

Comments: editorial@thegazette.com

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