Controversial voting laws requiring people to show identification at the polls have drawn criticism from those who believe it’s simply a ploy to keep minorities and the elderly poor from voting. However, many Republicans, such as Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, assert that in-person voter fraud is a real problem that threatens the very fabric of the American version of democracy.
To that end, in 2010 Schultz committed himself to tracking and prosecuting voter fraud. Now three years and $280,000 later, only 16 charges were filed out of 2.1 million registered Iowa voters.
Of those 16 people, five had the charges dismissed and five pleaded guilty, simply because it is a better legal option than risking going to trial wherein the penalty could be up to 10 years in prison. While Shultz claims that these numbers repudiate the idea “that there’s no such thing as voter fraud,” his critics say that these numbers prove that what in-person fraud exists is statistically insignificant.
Three of the five guilty pleas were not even instances of fraud, but simply a case where felons registered and voted in elections, mistakenly believing that their right to vote had been restored. Another case involved a woman who cast an absentee ballot for her daughter. The final case which resulted in a guilty plea involved a man who was trying to obtain a driver’s license using his deceased brother’s name—a case of identity theft more so than voter fraud.
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With six months left to go in the investigation, Shultz plans to double-down on this initiative and plans to ask the state legislature for even more money to begin a program for “signature verification, a process for vetting absentee ballots.” Civil liberties concerns aside, the question Iowans need to ask is if the nearly $300,000 investment into this program is worth it, considering the insignificant amount of voter fraud that exists in the state.