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Iowa Republican debunks his own voter fraud claims

Iowa's secretary of state says the risk of voter fraud justifies the use of voter IDs, but his own $150,000 investigation pretty much debunked his claim.
Dallas Seitz of Zwingle, Iowa fills out his ballot with his daughter, Madeline, 3, at the Saint Lawrence Church on November 6, 2012 in Otter Creek, Iowa.
Dallas Seitz of Zwingle, Iowa fills out his ballot with his daughter, Madeline, 3, at the Saint Lawrence Church on November 6, 2012 in Otter Creek, Iowa.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has been a big proponent of voter ID and many of the other "voting reform" efforts that look a lot like voter suppression. Since taking office in 2011 he has repeatedly invoked voter fraud as a justification for those effects, but after spending $150,000 on an official state investigation, he's uncovered five definitive cases of fraud. 

That's the finding of a report from the Des Moines Register, which tracked the results of the voter fraud investigation he directed the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to start in July 2012. Sixteen cases were passed along to local county officials by the DCI: five led to guilty pleas; five have been dismissed; the rest are pending. 

Those five cases of definite fraud are a tiny fraction of 1.58 million votes cast in Iowa during the 2012 election. The additional pending cases primarily involve potential noncitizen voters. 

Three of the guilty pleas entered so far involved felons who registered to vote, and in all of those cases the felons' lawyers said they believed that their rights had been restored. (Iowa has some of the most restrictive rules for felons seeking to restore their voting rights in the nation since Republican Gov. Terry Branstad issued an executive order rescinding a law that had allowed for automatic restoration for felons who completed their sentences. The law now requires felons to pay all court fees, complete their sentence, and any parole or probation, and then apply to retore their voting rights.)   

In one case a man trying to steal his brother's identity managed to register to vote under his name, because of the motor voter law which helps register new driver’s license applicants to vote.

In another case, a mother cast an absentee ballot on behalf of her daughter, believing she wouldn't be able to vote after moving to Minnesota. When she found out that her daughter had successfully registered and voted, she self-reported the incident, accepting a misdemeanor charge and paying a fine.

Bonnie Pitz, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Iowa told msnbc the League wishes Schultz would spend his "efforts and energy on increasing voter registration over pursuing voter fraud because it really is so limited and often it really is a mistake."

She said her group had found that confusion over voting extends beyond felons who don't understand their voting rights restoration, noting that many citizens she works with are also confused about whether or not they need an ID to vote, a provision Schultz actively champions. "We just are working hard on lots of voter education so people can get registered," she said, "and make sure that they understand that we don't have photo ID in Iowa."

Schultz told a group of Republicans in October that he expected to find "a lot" of voter fraud cases, and it appears he thinks that may still come to fruition. 

“I don’t think you can judge the initiative until it’s over,” he told the Des Moines Register.

“We need to have zero tolerance when it comes to cheating,” he said. “People have died to give us our right to vote, and we need to protect that right.”