Secretary of State
Des Moines, IA 50319
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Chance McElhaney, (515) 725-2942
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz's opening statement for the Iowa Senate State Government Committee
Below is Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz's opening statement for the Iowa Senate State Government Committee meeting today at 3 p.m. in Senate Room 116. Linked below is a report from the Iowa Secretary of State's office on the status of the statewide felon file used for voter registration.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz
Iowa Senate State Government Committee Meeting
February 3, 2014
I want to thank this Committee for providing me the opportunity to defend the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Secretary of State's office from the baseless attacks that have come from members of the media and the legislature.
I am glad Senator Danielson finally agrees with me that every vote counts and has called this hearing. It is unfortunate that this committee has not taken voting problems seriously until now, even though there have been multiple people voting illegally and canceling the legitimate votes of Iowans.
I want to take this opportunity to correct the record and offer solutions to make sure that no one is ever kept from voting who is eligible to vote. It has always been my goal to protect voter's rights and the integrity of our elections.
As everyone is aware, it was brought to my attention last week that three individuals in Cerro Gordo County were wrongly listed as felons and kept from voting. Their names were on a list of felons that is provided to the Secretary of State and the County Auditors by the Judicial branch. To be removed from this list the Governor's office provides a list of felons who have had their voting rights restored. This is the process that this legislature has put into place to enforce the Iowa Constitution.
As has been reported by some members of the media these individuals were wrongly kept from voting because the information provided by the Judicial Branch to the Secretary of State was not accurate or was not updated and forwarded to the Secretary of State by the Vilsack administration.
Some members of the media and this body have tried to mislead the public and make accusations about my office and the DCI investigations. The fact of the matter is we found out about the inaccurate information regarding these three voters because of the DCI investigation. Without these investigations these three individuals would still be listed as felons and kept from voting. This is a clear example of how the investigation has improved the administration of our elections in the state of Iowa. Not only has DCI uncovered multiple cases of individuals who illegally voted, but in this case, DCI found three people who were not allowed to vote because of bad information given to our office and made it possible to fix this problem.
It has always been the plan of my office to issue a report to the legislature when DCI's work was completed. Unfortunately, my staff did not alert me to the situation in December, but regardless, I would not have issued a press release on this situation because it would have been part of the findings of the report and not a criminal matter.
When I personally found out about this problem last week I instructed my staff to review and create a report to present to the legislature. This report contains information about this specific issue and provides several solutions to make sure this never happens again. I would like to turn my time over to Sarah Reisetter, my Elections Director, to go over the report and solutions. Thank you.
Important takeaways from this information packet and the upcoming hearing:
The DCI voter fraud investigation discovered that three voters on the felon list that cast provisional ballots were in fact eligible.
- The DCI investigation and the Iowa Secretary of State's office did not cause these voters to be disenfranchised.
- The DCI investigation actually caused these three voter's voting rights to be corrected and restored.
- The DCI voter fraud investigation improves the administration of federal elections by ensuring eligible voters rights are protected and ensuring ineligible voters aren't voting.
The judicial branch, specifically the 99 clerks of court, is the custodian of felon records and distributes them to the Iowa Secretary of State's office and all 99 county auditors in accordance with state law.
- The Iowa Secretary of State's office and county auditors, do not have access to critical information regarding probation, parole or supervised release of felons and cannot ensure felon records distributed by the judicial branch are accurate.
- The responsibility of accurate criminal records rests with the judicial branch.
It is sometimes falsely stated that Governor Vilsack's Executive Order 42 gave all felons their right to vote back.
- Executive Order 42 required that felons be "completely discharged from criminal sentence, including any accompanying term of probation, parole or supervised release."
- The Iowa Secretary of State's office and county auditors, do not have access to critical information regarding probation, parole or supervised release of felons. That information is available only to the judicial branch and law enforcement.
- During the Secretary of State's review of this issue, it appears that in July of 2005 when Governor Vilsack signed Executive Order 42, former Governor Vilsack did not supply a list of qualifying felons under Executive Order 42 to the 99 clerks of court or then Secretary of State Chet Culver.
- Based on the information reported by DCI Special Agent Matt Anderson, if Vilsack supplied a list to the 99 clerks of court or Culver to update the statewide voter registration system, it seems that any updates had not been done at all or at least not done with 100% accuracy.
Persons listed as felons in the statewide voter registration database that use Election Day Registration require any issues to be resolved after the vote has already taken place instead of being handled before a ballot is cast.
- In the case of Cerro Gordo County in 2012, five ineligible felons were correctly stopped from casting an ineligible ballot and three individuals were kept from voting when they shouldn't have been due to inaccurate records by the judicial branch.
When an Election Day Registration voter is flagged as a felon in the statewide voter registration database by an electronic pollbook, the voter receives two things.
- They receive a printed notice which includes contact information for the Iowa Secretary of State's office, the county auditor's office and /or the governor's office.
- They also receive a "Statement to Provisional Voter" detailing why the voter is required to cast a provisional ballot and information about how the voter can provide evidence supporting their qualifications as a voter so their provisional ballot can be counted.
- Unfortunately, none of these three voters contacted the Secretary of State's office to correct the incorrect information on file from the judicial branch.