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Iowa will not move ahead with attempted purge of voter rolls based on citizenship

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The state of Iowa will not move ahead with a proposed rule that would have removed voters from state registration rolls based on apparent citizenship status.

An Iowa Supreme Court order issued Friday said the state dropped an appeal of a court ruling that found former Secretary of State Matt Schultz unlawfully initiated the rule that would have set up a process to remove voters from registration rolls if Schultz could not confirm their citizenship by comparing state records with a federal immigration database. The court had been scheduled to hear arguments in the appeal filed by Schultz later this month.

Dropping the appeal means a permanent injunction issued by a judge last year remains in effect and the voter purge rule will not go into effect.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging the rule, which Schultz first proposed just before the November general election that year.

The ACLU and LULAC argued the rule would have intimidated immigrant voters, including those who may have recently become citizens, and discouraged them from going to the polls or registering.

"This is an important victory for the protection of voters' rights in Iowa," said Rita Bettis, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, in a statement. "It means that Iowans will not have to worry about the voter purges we've seen take effect in other states with a disastrous impact, especially for new U.S. citizens and Latinos."

The rule was similar to ones used Florida and Colorado.

The Iowa Attorney General's office, which represented Schultz in the case declined to comment referring questions to current Secretary of State Paul Pate, who was not immediately available for comment.

Schultz, now the county attorney in Madison County, did not return a message.

Polk County Judge Scott Rosenberg said in his ruling last year that state law allows cancellation of voter registration only for 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. He concluded the secretary of state did not have the authority to use citizenship status as a reason to remove a voter's registration.

Schultz, who won election in 2010 on the promise he'd work to pass a voter ID law and be tough on voter fraud, argued he couldn't allow non-citizens to cancel out Iowans' votes. He insisted the rule protected the integrity of the vote.

Schultz did not seek re-election after one term in office. He ran for Congress last year but finished third in the primary then sought and won election to the county attorney seat.


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