The ACLU of Iowa and Iowa LULAC today restarted their lawsuit to stop the Secretary of State from an unreliable process to remove registered voters if they cannot prove their U.S. citizenship within a limited time

On March 29, the ACLU of Iowa and the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) filed papers in Polk County District court, renewing their lawsuit against two rules filed by the Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz that the groups say wrongly restrict voting by qualified Iowans.

One rule would have allowed unverified challenges to another voter’s qualifications. The Secretary of State eventually voluntarily withdrew that rule.

The other rule, which took effect yesterday, allows the Secretary of State to run Iowa’s registered voters through numerous federal databases to attempt to generate a list of non-citizens. But the databases contain numerous points of error in information, were never designed to cross-check voters, contain insufficient data to do so comprehensively, and put the burden on voters to prove their citizenship if they are identified, rightly or wrongly. Even the federal government agency that runs the SAVE databases recommended against using it to cross-check voters. Obtaining proof of citizenship to correct errors in the SAVE system can cost voters hundreds of dollars, in-person interviews with the federal government, and lengthy delays. Obtaining certificates of naturalization for the case of a new U.S. citizen, for example, can take six months to a year and cost hundreds of dollars.

Those voters identified by Schultz would be sent letters giving them 60 days to prove their citizenship or face challenge and removal proceedings at the county level.

 Previous Success In Blocking Voter Suppression

The ACLU and LULAC were able to stop the rules prior to the general election in November 2013 by getting a temporary injunction in court. While a temporary injunction is not a final ruling, one of the things the ACLU and LULAC had to prove at that time was that they were likely to ultimately succeed in their legal claims.

However, the injunction expired today, when the final rule regarding voter removal took effect and supplanted the emergency rules.

Now, the ACLU and LULAC are seeking a final determination that the emergency rules were illegal, as well as to stop the final rule allowing for voter removal.

The ACLU and LULAC say that the Secretary of State was never authorized by the Iowa legislature to put his Voter Removal Rule forward, and that it will erroneously deprive qualified citizens in Iowa of their right to vote. The ACLU and LULAC cite problems with running the registered voter lists through the federal SAVE system, as well as a lack of procedural checks to protect voters once they are identified.

Broad  Support

Earlier this month, the ACLU and LULAC were joined by a number of members of the public and organizations concerned with voting rights in Iowa, including the League of Women Voters of Iowa, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Midwest Chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, and the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers in objecting to the rules during the administrative rulemaking process.

Assisting attorneys from the ACLU of Iowa and the ACLU National Voting Rights Project is volunteer cooperating attorney Joe Glazebrook of the Des Moines law firm, Glazebrook & Moe, LLP.

Posted March 29, 2013