Voting privileges. When every vote counts, ballots are priceless. And that's why election officials are ensuring ballots are going to eligible voters. We're questioning Iowa's top election administrator, Secretary of State Matt Schultz and Attorney General Tom Miller on this edition of Iowa Press.
Borg: There's no arguing about the need for election integrity. It's the cornerstone of democracy. But ensuring election integrity without intimidating legitimate voters is also important. Iowa's Secretary of State Republican Matt Schultz is currently pursuing several initiatives to make sure Iowa's elections are squeaky clean. And Iowa's Attorney General Democrat Tom Miller is making sure Iowa's election laws are protecting elections and those who want to vote. We've invited both of them to the Iowa Press table today for a conversation on the subject and others. Gentlemen, you've both been here before, welcome back to Iowa Press.
Miller: Thanks for having us.
Schultz: Thanks, Dean.
Borg: And across the Iowa Press table Des Moines Register Political Writer Jennifer Jacobs and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Henderson: Mr. Schultz, let's talk about the voter fraud investigation that you launched several months ago. How much money have you spent in pursuing voter fraud? And how many crooks have you caught?
Schultz: Good question. Well, we haven't received a bill yet, as far as I know. That is an agreement we have with the Department of Criminal Investigation, similar to the agreements they have with the lottery and as well the casinos. But we will be getting a bill at some point. Right now we know the three cases in Council Bluffs, there's been at least one in Dallas County, a couple in Page as well. Most of those have been surrounded by felons who voted who hadn't had their voting rights restored and non-citizens who had voted. So those investigations will continue to go on. The Des Moines Register also had talked about some absentee ballot issues in Floyd County and Muscatine County where there are investigations as well. So we're going to continue to uphold the law because that's our job.
Henderson: Mr. Miller, there have been some lawsuits filed to prevent Mr. Schultz from doing part of this voter fraud investigation. Why did you choose to defend the Secretary of State?
Miller: Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's my job to defend state officials when they are sued. Secondly, Secretary Schultz came to me very early on and said, I want you to represent me, I want to do this right, I want to don't have the situation like they have in Florida and Colorado where there was really premature activities that would suppress voting. He did not want to suppress votes. He didn't want any voter fraud. He wanted to reach across party lines to do the right thing. And whenever anybody comes to me and says, I want to do the right thing, I want you to defend me, I'm going to do just that.
Borg: I want to go back to what you said, Mr. Schultz, about uncovering some potential possible voter fraud. How are those cases progressing now? Will they go to a grand jury? Or how are charges pressed in something like that? And who presses them? On the state level or local level?
Schultz: Well, there's a couple options. It's mostly on the local level. DCI, we just turn information over to DCI, they run the investigations, we don't coordinate or tell them what to do. We just give them the information. Then they contact local officials, do the investigations they need to do. In terms of the criminal cases that have been filed currently those have been done through county attorneys. Obviously they could go, in some cases, with the federal government and go to the U.S. Attorney's Office as well. But those are decisions made by the county attorneys and DCI working together.
Henderson: Mr. Schultz, we may be talking about a list. Let's tell viewers who aren't up to speed where the list came from, how you came up with this list.
Schultz: That's a great, a great point. What we did is we went to the DOT and we asked Paul Trambino, do you guys get drivers licenses for non-citizens? And he told us that they do. But these are not citizens who are here legally, who are maybe here on a student visa or are here on a green card. And so they have the opportunity to get a drivers license. We took that list of information and we matched it against our voter registration records. When we did that we had 3,582 hits of individuals who could be registered to vote. My concern was that they may have gotten a drivers license and become citizens after the fact. And so we wanted to make sure that we weren't just accusing people and taking their names off the records like they did in Florida. And that's why we went about the way we did.
Henderson: What are you shaking your head about, Mr. Miller?
Miller: Well, I was shaking my head in agreement, that Secretary Schultz made a crucial decision when he had that list of 3500. Does he act on that? Does he make accusations? Does he get a lot of publicity? Does he intimidate voters like they did in Florida and Colorado? Or does he go to the federal government and say, give me the list of people who are now citizens so he could see who became a citizen after the drivers license registration. That was the right thing to do and that's what he did and that is where you eliminate voter intimidation. His goal, my goal is zero voter fraud, zero voter intimidation.
Jacobs: Secretary Schultz, there have been some complaints about your use of the Help America Vote Act money as far as using it to remove people from voter roles instead of using it to encourage voting which is what the money is intended for. Do you think that is an appropriate use of that federal money?
Schultz: Absolutely. The attorneys in my office have looked at it, it's one of these cases where that money is there to make sure that we have the administration of elections. We believe that it is an appropriate way to use the money. And you make a good point though. We also are going and trying to make sure that we do things to encourage voting. That is why we partnered up with Rock the Vote to create a program called Rock Iowa. We also created a program called Honor a Veteran With Your Vote. So we're doing other things as well to encourage voting and I'm proud that Iowa is the only state that actually increased voter turnout in this election.
Jacobs: Good point. Mr. Miller, Matt Schultz is very, very passionate about wanting to require Iowans to show an ID in order to vote. Has he rubbed off on you at all?
Miller: Not at all on that one. We’ve worked together on the litigation and a lot of the questions and particularly on zero voter fraud, zero voter intimidation. But we part company on voter ID. I'm opposed to it because I think that no one has demonstrated the amount of fraud, any significant amount of fraud that would relate to the ID to call for this kind of legislation. And on the other side the result is that people won't be able to vote, elderly people, minorities and others for a variety of reasons. They won't have the card on Election Day. So I disagree with him on this issue.
Borg: I wonder if that might be partisan because Mr. Schultz, last week on this program Kay Henderson asked the leader of the Iowa Senate's democratic majority, Mike Gronstal, about your proposal for verifying voter signatures.
Iowa Press - November 30, 2012 - Henderson: Mr. Gronstal, is that something that you think should be done?
Iowa Press - November 30, 2012 - Mike Gronstal: I'm well confident that my ballot would have been thrown out. That is the challenge with that legislation. Anybody whose signature changes over time -- I wish the Secretary of State was working on things that would help more Iowans vote rather than discourage more Iowans to vote. In particular that proposal would make it exceedingly difficult for senior citizens.
Borg: Mr. Schultz, Senator Gronstal was saying signatures and handwriting changes over time. His wouldn't be the same as what is on record. Legitimate concern?
Schultz: No. I mean, at the end of the day look at what Oregon and Washington are doing. They're an all mail state. They require signature verification. There are other states like Colorado and Kansas that do it as well. I think it's about how you craft the legislation and there are ways to make sure that it works. It's working in these other states. What I'm doing is I haven't proposed anything yet. All I've said is when you have almost half of the people in Iowa voting by absentee or by mail it's something we should be looking at. And I'm going to put this in front of my election advisory board, which is made up of five democrat and five republican county auditors and say, okay, we have half of our voters voting by mail, is this something we should be looking at? And how do we make it so that we're not doing what Senator Gronstal is saying and preventing people from voting. I recognize that people's signatures changes, or can change, and there are ways to provide for that.
Borg: Do you see some partisan opposition though, democrat Attorney General Tom Miller, democrat Mike Gronstal opposing this?
Schultz: Well, look, what Tom is talking about, voter ID is a little different than signature verification. You see Joel Miller, who is a democrat county auditor in Linn County, immediately when I said that I think we should have signature verification came out and said, yes we should. It's about how you do the process and I think it's important to put this in front of the county auditors who have their boots on the ground, so to speak. And my election advisory board is bipartisan and will work together to try and put together legislation that works for everybody.
Borg: General Miller?
Miller: Yeah, and keep in mind they are two separate issues, the voter ID that I think Jennifer asked me about and the signature verification. As Secretary Schultz said, they use signature verification in Washington and Oregon and it seems to work. But I think if we start down that road we should look at the total package in Washington and Oregon and really consider voting by mail, not in the polling place, that 100% of the vote would be by mail as they do in Oregon and Washington. So I'd be willing to consider that overall package.
Henderson: Mr. Schultz, are you in favor of completely voting by mail?
Schultz: Not at this time. I mean, I like going to the polls and I know a lot of people who like to go to the polls. But I want to work with the legislature, I want to try and make sure -- we have a good election system but it's not perfect and we just want to make sure that people aren't cheating. And so my goal is to do those kinds of things to make sure that we have honest integrity but also protect voter's rights.
Jacobs: Mr. Miller, do you think there's enough watch-dogging of the Secretary of State's office to make sure that that office isn't wrongly removing Iowa citizens from the voter rolls?
Miller: I think that the Secretary has an enormous commitment to do this right. He and I have talked about that, that we don't want voter fraud but we don't want to stop, intimidate or remove from the voting rolls any single individual. That is very important to me and I think it is for him. And people are watching. I mean, Matt, you do have people watching you.
Schultz: Just a few.
Miller: Including the media, which is a healthy thing.
Jacobs: Is there public oversight? Can Iowans look over your shoulder to see who you have removed and why?
Schultz: Well, we haven't removed anybody. And actually that removal -- that's the beautiful part about this -- the removal process is done by the county auditors. And the only way a non-citizen under our rule can be removed is by having multiple levels of due process where we send them a notice and then somebody has to actually challenge them at the county level where a county auditor basically sits as judge, looks at the evidence and says, yes this person is a citizen or no they're not, or yes they're eligible or no they're not. And then they can appeal to the district court. So, I mean, essentially what we've done is to provide more protection for voters rather than just remove people off the rolls like they did in other states.
Borg: General Miller, what has changed in elections? You've been through several elections personally.
Miller: You and I have been around for a while.
Borg: I was going to say that. Thank you for adding that. But what has changed in elections that suddenly we're worried about election integrity?
Miller: Well, I guess two things have changed. One is that we do a lot more early voting. We've reached the point where 43% vote early in one phase or another. That has been a big change and people have been concerned about it. And the other probably more important factor is that all of America has gotten a lot more partisan, a lot more politicized and I think that for some people on the right like the secretary of state in Florida and Colorado they have become very partisan on these issues and have used voter fraud as a rationale to do things that they shouldn't do.
Henderson: Speaking of the integrity of the results, people on election night weren't able to know the results in Iowa because of a computer meltdown, let's just call it a meltdown. Aside from all the software issues what is your answer to Iowans who see a conspiracy here, who worry about the integrity of the process when they can't go online and see what the results are?
Schultz: Well, what happened was obviously there was a lot of interest in Iowa as a pivotal state. What we have been able to -- what we believe has happened so far, and we are doing an audit on our software and the system the way it was set up, but we had a huge load right there at the very beginning with a lot of people who were looking at the website. We try to plan for this load and put it on the cloud, that was the idea by putting it on the cloud we could handle more users.
Henderson: You mean an outside provider, the cloud?
Schultz: When I say the cloud it's, absolutely, it's a third party that kind of maintains and is supposed to be able to handle more traffic. We tried to plan for that contingency. It didn't connect until about an hour and a half afterwards because there were so, we believe so many people. So in the future we're going to make sure that we have other avenues that we can redirect people. I mean, it was a difficult situation to be in but I immediately acted with my staff and said -- because we were seeing all the results -- let's take PDF shots and get those up so at least people could see it. So we started doing that as soon as we could within the first half hour. So people could still get the results but it wasn't as fancy and as nice as we had had it set up. So our goal is to not have to put PDF images up in the future.
Henderson: Mr. Miller, is this a fireable offense? Theoretically Secretary of State Schultz will run for re-election in 2014. Is this something that should concern voters?
Miller: Well, all of these things are up to the voters. The voters consider everything we do for the four years, or in my case probably more than four years. So that is something that was unfortunate and frustrating for people. That is fair game for people to consider along with everything else during the four year period.
Jacobs: Let's be direct on that. Do each of you intend to run for your current office in 2014?
Schultz: We'll be making that decision. My wife and I, we have four kids and another on the way, we found out we're having a baby boy yesterday. So those are decisions I'm going to make with my wife as it gets closer.
Miller: Yeah, and we just finished this last election. We all were pretty intense and it's hard to focus on the next one yet. But I'll talk to my wife about it as well. But you know I do love this job.
Jacobs: Secretary Schultz, has the thought crossed your mind of challenging Senator Harkin for U.S. Senate?
Schultz: I'm not running against Tom Harkin. Look, I'm the Secretary of State and I'm very passionate about these issues. I love elections and I love business. People forget we're also in charge of all the corporate filings in the state of Iowa. We're doing great things there. We're working to create a business start up month and hopefully we can get it through the legislature.
Borg: Yeah, but the question was whether or not you're going to run against Tom Harkin.
Schultz: Well, that is my point. I love these issues. I love business and I love elections. And so that's where my passion is right now and that's where I'm going to be.
Borg: So you're saying now, never?
Schultz: Well, I'm not running against Tom Harkin in two years if that's what you're asking.
Jacobs: And Mr. Miller, have you heard about any Iowans being offered jobs in the Obama administration yet?
Miller: I think there's a little bit of talk but it's fairly early. Again, the election is just over and they haven't really set up even the inaugural committee yet and there's this fiscal cliff that they're dealing with. So I think it's a little early to tell who may be moving to Washington and I think some people will. Obviously the President has great affection for this state and for many of the people that worked for him. So last time we sent Governor Vilsack to be Secretary of Agriculture for instance.
Henderson: Would you move to D.C.?
Miller: I don't think so.
Henderson: Okay. Let's shift to a discussion in your respective parties about leadership. Sue Dvorsky this past week announced she is leaving the Democratic Party. On the Republican Party there's sort of a lot of discussion about the current chair. Do you support the current chairman of the republican party, A.J. Spiker, Mr. Schultz? Or would you like to see a different leader?
Schultz: I'll support whoever the central committee picks to be the leader of our party. That is a decision that is up to them, not me. I'm focused on what I'm trying to do. But obviously I'm a republican and I'll support those individuals they choose to lead us.
Henderson: Mr. Miller, do you have any thoughts on who might be the next party chairman or chairwoman for democrats in Iowa?
Miller: Well, I have a lot of thoughts on the past chair. Sue Dvorsky did such a great job. She jumped in two years ago in the summer and took over and guided us through a difficult 2010, brought us to great victories in 2012, had so much energy and feel for people and commitment to our ideals. She did just a great job.
Borg: I didn't hear you praising A.J. Spiker like he did Sue Dvorsky.
Schultz: Well, I like A.J., he's a nice guy but we had a tough election all around and we're looking at the future now and if the central committee elects A.J. I'll be there to support him just like whoever else may be the chair of the Republican Party.
Miller: Tyler Olson has been mentioned as a possible chair. I'm a big Tyler Olson fan. I think he's --
Henderson: He's a lawyer from Cedar Rapids who is also a state legislator.
Miller: State representative -- has tremendous potential in our party and for our state in one way or another.
Jacobs: Secretary Schultz, on the straw poll, the Iowa straw poll in Ames you oversaw the voting in the 2011 straw poll. What about the future? Do you think the straw poll should be scrapped or continued?
Schultz: I like politics, I like the straw poll. It's kind of like the state fair for politics. Whether it needs to be tweaked or what needs to happen I personally like the straw poll but that's from a personal standpoint. In terms of the effects of it I'll let those who are in charge of it make those decisions.
Miller: I think it's a terrible mistake for the Republican Party. We did it for a while and have long since abandoned it.
Borg: You mean democrats did it for a while.
Miller: We did it for a while and abandoned it. It's an exploitation of the candidates at a time when they're just really starting to put together their organizations in terms of the $25 for a ticket, buying space. We in Iowa have just such enormous benefits from being first-in-the-nation in our caucuses. Instead of having a straw vote that raises money for the party in August we have the JJ dinner in October or November which is just a huge event, it's an organizing event, it's a great fundraiser but we don't have the straw vote there, don't need to. The republicans don't need to. They should get rid of that.
Jacobs: On the caucuses do you think that county election officials should be involved in verifying the accuracy of the results?
Schultz: The caucuses are a party driven event. I don't -- if you get county auditors involved, you get the Secretary of State's office then it really is a primary and that's not what it's supposed to be. The reason I think the caucuses are so great because you get to go and you get to try and convince your neighbors to vote for the person you want to see elected. And you don't get that when you have an election like you do on a primary. So I would be against creating an Iowa primary. I think the caucus is unique and it is special and I think that's why people come to Iowa.
Henderson: There's a divergence between what republicans do on caucus night and what democrats do on caucus night. Democrats do something different, this delegate strength thing that you do that involves math. If republicans though were to change and have county auditors involved in compiling vote totals would you think that democrats would feel compelled to make a change in the way they conduct the caucuses?
Miller: I don't think so. I think that what we have is a little truer form, if you will, of a caucus as opposed to a primary. And we're comfortable with that, that has some merits in terms of distributing power and vote around the state and effect particularly to some of the rural areas. It's consistent with the idea of a caucus and a convention. And it makes us more different from New Hampshire. I mean, New Hampshire's great pride is the first-of-the-nation in the primary. If we get closer to a primary then they get sort of nervous and we always want to be in league with them to have first caucus, first primary. So I wouldn't favor that.
Borg: I want to go back to what Mr. Schultz said, just a second Kay, on not getting the county auditors involved, he says too much like a primary. Isn't it, however, some are saying that it's going to be necessary to ensure the integrity, I used that word in introing the program, the integrity of the caucus results? Mr. Miller?
Miller: Well, I think both parties are capable of ensuring the integrity of the caucus results. I remember back in 1979 when I was supporting Senator Kennedy was one of the leaders of his campaign and Ed Campbell, my friend Ed Campbell was one of the leaders supporting President Carter. Ed Campbell was also the state democratic chair. And the Kennedy people came to me and said, well how can we get an honest count? I said, because it's Iowa, we'll make sure it's an honest count. So I think both parties can do that. I think we should be careful to overreact too much from the results of the republican caucuses the last time. The odds of getting down to a few votes, of this repeating are so, so small. It was so unusual to have that kind of situation and I believe it's corrected by, if it gets close don't call a winner, wait a day or two to do that.
Borg: So you're saying leave it as it is.
Henderson: Mr. Miller, in 2007 February when Barack Obama made his first trip to Iowa you publicly endorsed him. In 2016, maybe 2015 are you going to endorse Hillary Clinton? Would you like to do it now just a little bit earlier than that?
Miller: Well, this is fairly early.
Henderson: I'll give you that opportunity.
Miller: It's a month since the last election. I think it's too early to make decisions and certainly for me but I do have enormous regard for Hillary Clinton. I am a great fan of Hillary Clinton. I have a great respect for her as well as her husband, of course.
Henderson: Do you think the nomination is hers until she says she doesn't want it?
Miller: Well, I think it's just too early to tell. We haven't even had the inaugural yet. Although I will note that I'm a fan of Chuck Todd on NBC and a couple of days after the election he was saying that approximately 1150 days from now is the Iowa caucus. So he had started the countdown but not for me. I'm not counting down.
Jacobs: Secretary Schultz, you endorsed Mitt Romney in 2007 and in this cycle you endorsed Rick Santorum. Was that because you saw the train wreck coming?
Schultz: No. Mitt Romney is a good man. I think he showed to be a good man during the campaign. I supported Rick Santorum because I was looking at the candidates, Rick Santorum didn't run in 2007, ran this time, he and I seem to be more alike in our views but I supported Mitt Romney the second he won the nomination and unfortunately, from my perspective unfortunately he was not elected but we'll all move on and hopefully work together to keep things going.
Henderson: As your party tries to move on there's this debate among republicans about how do we reach out to Hispanic, Latino voters. As someone who speaks Spanish what is your advice to your own party?
Schultz: Well, I think we need to obviously listen and take what we believe and make sure they know what we believe and make sure everyone knows what we believe. I think that's a message not just to Latinos or to other minorities. I think it's a message that we need to be consistent and we need to tell everybody exactly where we're coming from and make sure if there's misinformation out there that it's corrected and reach out to them. I think we just didn't do as good of a job reaching out to individuals as the other side. And I think that's more of where we need to go. It's not necessarily about changing message. There may need to be some messages that we need to look at but overall I think it's about getting that message out and I think that's where we failed in making sure that those people who voted for President Obama didn't really know where we stood on certain issues.
Jacobs: Mr. Miller, quickly, Governor Branstad has complained that the state has had to hire outside counsel because you didn't represent him on lawsuits filed against him. Why was that? He has complained that has cost taxpayers more. Is there a strained relationship between you two? Or is there legal reasons that you couldn't represent him?
Miller: Yeah, there's a couple of lawsuits where he was very strong in requesting outside counsel. It was initiated by him. It wasn't something that I really wanted to do. I respected his wishes to have outside counsel in a couple of cases. Those were at the beginning of his term. That hasn't happened more recently.
Henderson: Some democrats scratch their head at this duo over here. How did you guys come to work together as you have on this project of voter fraud?
Miller: Well, as I told you, I guess a little bit of background we had worked together on a couple of issues and when this issue came up Secretary Schultz came to me and he said, I want you to represent me, I want to do this right. I said, well that means no voter fraud but no voter suppression? He said, that's exactly right. So it was my duty. When I can do something across party lines and do the right thing I'm always going to do that. And I think democrats sort of, and the public, sort of understand that about me and sort of like it.
Borg: Mr. Schultz, just ten seconds. You liked what he said?
Schultz: Absolutely. I love working with Tom. I think we've had a great relationship working on some people scamming businesses in Iowa and this issue. I really do enjoy working with Attorney General Miller.
Borg: Well, we'll have both of you back again then.
Schultz: Sounds good.
Miller: We'll look forward to that. Don't wait so long though, it's been a long time.
Borg: Thank you, Tom. A political programming reminder for our viewers too, a panel of past Iowa caucus campaign managers recently discussed the future of the same caucuses at Iowa State University. We'll be rebroadcasting that conversation. It was moderated by former Iowa Press panelist and Register Columnist David Yepsen. It's the Future of the Iowa Caucuses from the Harkin Institute at Iowa State. It will be on IPTV World Tuesday night, that's December 11th, at 8:00 in the evening. And we'll be back with another Iowa Press next weekend, usual times, 7:30 Friday night and a second chance to see the show Sunday at noon. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.