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Iowa Judge Blocks Voter Suppression

 
 
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Good news!

A district court judge said Friday that Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz cannot move forward with new rules that would challenge voters appearing on databases as noncitizens. Judge Mary Pat Gunderson issued temporary injunction Friday blocking Schultz from implementing voting rules he established without holding a public hearing.

Judge Gunderson said her ruling only addresses the request for a temporary injunction and doesn't ultimately decide the merits of the case.  That, she says, will come at a later time.  But as for Schultz's argument that he needed to bypass public hearings or the legislature because of time constraints, Judge Gunderson ruled "The court finds the Secretary's argument to be less than persuasive."

Ruling on new voting rules - pdf

I especially liked her comment:

Judge Gunderson ruled, "The only emergency claimed by Respondent (Schultz) is the short amount of time between July 17 and November 6, 2012.  However, this timeline was completely self-imposed.  The date of the November 2012 general election is common knowledge.  The Secretary was in office for 18 months during which time he could have initiated normal rulemaking procedures.
Thought you all might enjoy some good news for the weekend!

Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain!

Second update: freep this poll!

 It asks whether this kind of shenanigan is needed for honest voting or is politically motivated. It's about 275 votes right now - we can blow it away.

As they come in, I'll be adding reaction to this decision. The perspicacious Rekha Basu has already chimed in.

She points out the practical difficulties behind the citizenship checks:

One of the lists is of licensed Iowa drivers, and it shows who wasn’t a citizen when he or she got licensed. Checking those names against registered voters, Schultz claims 3,582 people marked as noncitizens are registered to vote in Iowa.

But a driver’s license is good for five years. What Schultz didn’t say, and maybe didn’t know, is that in the five years ending last Sept. 30, 11,492 Iowans became U.S. citizens.

He’s also negotiating with the federal government for access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements list, which is intended for government agencies to determine if immigrants are eligible for benefits, such as food stamps. Officials there have written to Schultz saying that using it to verify citizenship has significant limitations since the office doesn’t have access to birth certificate information.

She also unpacks the real motivation behind it:
Beginning with a presumption of guilt is not what the Constitution intended. Sadly, this has the appearance of a fishing expedition designed to keep Latino immigrants — who tend to vote Democratic — from voting. Iowa is a swing state, after all.

A Common Cause report, “Bullies at the Ballot Box,” looks at vote-suppression efforts in 10 other states where elections could be close. In Colorado this week the Republican secretary of state decided not to pursue a voter purge after almost 90 percent of the suspected noncitizens he identified turned out to be legal voters. Florida’s Republican governor launched a similar effort to investigate 180,000 suspicious voter names, resulting in 2,600 being removed from voter rolls. All but 207 of those were eligible voters.

More coverage below the fleur de Kos -

 

Bloomberg covered the decision, with good links to the background.

From NECN, more of the decision:

Gunderson said 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. "They have created fear that new citizens will lose their right to vote and/or be charged with a felony, and cause some qualified voters to feel deterred from even registering to vote," she said.

As a result, she said Schultz didn't have sufficient reason to justify rushing the rules through using an emergency process. She said the new rule that makes it easier to challenge a voter's registration eliminates a requirement that the person complaining must swear to the facts and face prosecution for making false allegations. She said current law provides adequate procedure to challenge a voter's qualification.

An ACLU spokeswoman said she was grateful for the decision. "It will protect eligible, qualified voters in Iowa while the case on a permanent injunction is ongoing," said Rita Bettis, the group's legislative director.

From ABC5, responses from both sides:
Here is the news release issued by Secretary of State Matt Schultz:

Secretary of State Matt Schultz issued the following statement on District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson's ruling Friday granting a motion for temporary injunction in the American Civil Liberties Union, and League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, v. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz:

"Today's decision is only a temporary injunction, but unfortunately this ruling could open the door for non-citizens to continue voting in Iowa elections.  I am committed to fair and honest elections. I worked to prevent non-citizens from voting using a fair and reasonable process and that is still my intent."Although I am very disappointed in this ruling, this is just one of many steps in the litigation process and I am resolved to continuing to fight for the people of Iowa and protecting the integrity of our elections." Schultz explained that the new rule resulted from discussions between his office and the federal government concerning the state's request to access the federal government's immigration and citizenship SAVE database (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements). Schultz sought access to the database after learning that 3,582 non-citizens may have registered to vote in Iowa, and that 1208 of those individuals voted in the 2010 election. The list was generated from DOT records of non-citizens who had obtained a driver's license in the State of Iowa, and provided their driver's license number when registering to vote. "Access to the SAVE database will allow our office to verify whether those individuals are non-citizens or if they have become citizens since applying for their driver's license. You must be a citizen of the United States in order to vote in our elections, and I have a duty as the Secretary of State and chief commissioner of elections to safeguard the integrity of elections in Iowa," stated Schultz. ARC 0272C was implemented to establish a process to communicate with those individuals who remain positively identified as non-citizens after comparison with the federal government's immigration and citizenship database."

Here is the news release issued by the ACLU:

We were just notified late this afternoon about Judge Gunderson's ruling granting our request for a temporary injunction to halt the Iowa Secretary of State's  irresponsible and destructive voter suppression rules.

Statement from ACLU of Iowa  Legislative Director Rita Bettis

"We believe that every qualified, eligible Iowan should be free to exercise their most profound right of citizenship, the right to vote. This decision ensures that those rights will be protected while our case is proceeding, and that no Iowan, regardless of their Latino heritage, regardless of their status as new U.S. Citizens, will have to wonder what it will cost them to vote this coming election."  "No one should fear that unsworn, unreliable allegations that they are not qualified to vote will result in the 'investigation and prosecution' contemplated by these irresponsible rules."  "Pending the final resolution of this lawsuit, there should be no purge,  there should be no consideration of unfounded complaints of fraud, and the Secretary should immediately recall the baseless DCI investigation of thousands of Iowans that is founded solely on outdated, unreliable Department of Transportation data."

Statement from the ACLU's plaintiff in the case, the  League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, from state president Joe Enriquez Henry:

 "The Latino community is grateful for Judge Gunderson's decision. Her fairness today helps remove the fear that has existed. We are also grateful to the ACLU of Iowa for defending the Constitutional rights of every Iowan citizen to vote."

"We hope the ruling eliminates any fears Latino Iowa citizens had in exercising their right to vote, and that theLatino community will come out in full force to vote on Election Day."  Legal counsel for the case is Des Moines attorneys Dan Johnston and Joseph Glazebrook of Glazebrook and Moe, LLP, as well as Nancy Abudu and Laughlin McDonald of the national ACLU Voting Rights Project."

 

DailyKos / By Wee Mama

Posted at September 15, 2012, 6:26am