DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz did not have the authority to create a new rule aimed at ridding voter registration rolls of voters who didn't appear to be U.S. citizens, a judge said Wednesday.
Polk County Judge Scott Rosenberg ordered the rule stricken and said Iowa's secretary of state is “enjoined from taking any action” pursuant to the rule.
Rosenberg gave a victory to the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, which sued Schultz over the rule, saying it could intimidate or unfairly deny votes to immigrants.
Schultz tried to pass it as an emergency rule just before the November 2012 general election. Another judge halted the rule before the election, concluding that it created confusion and mistrust in the voter registration process.
Schultz, however, proceeded to pass a similar rule last year, but it, too, was halted by Rosenberg, who in September issued a temporary injunction preventing Schultz from acting on it until the court could further review the legal questions. The judge said then that the rule would have a chilling effect on the right to vote and could cause irreparable harm.
The rule that Schultz tried to create would have set up a process to remove voters from registration rolls by checking their names against state and national lists of noncitizens and then running suspected foreign nationals' names through a federal immigration database.
The lawsuit claimed that Schultz has no legal authority under Iowa law to push forward a voter removal rule.
Rosenberg said in his ruling that state law does not authorize Schultz to create a rule that would cancel a voter's registration based on citizenship questions.
A state law allows cancellation of voter registration for only six reasons: if a voter dies, registers in another jurisdiction, requests cancellation in writing, is convicted of a felony, is declared incompetent or has been inactive for two successive general elections.
Rosenberg also concluded that Schultz does not have the authority to compare state voter records with a federal immigration database.
A spokesman for Schultz said he is reviewing the ruling and plans to appeal.
Schultz, who has said he plans to run for Rep. Tom Latham's U.S. House seat in the 3rd District, has been criticized for his decision to pay the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation up to $280,000 in federal grant money for a two-year investigation into voter fraud. The Help America Vote Act funds were designed to support education about voting procedures, voter rights and technology.
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