OTTUMWA — Stopping someone from voting illegally while also encouraging Iowans to get out and vote, said Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, are both features of his office.
Schultz was in town Monday speaking at a meeting of Ottumwa Rotary in the ballroom of Hotel Ottumwa. He said there's more to the office of the "SOS" than many people realize. But he acknowledged the most exciting part to many is election fraud prevention. And at least one question and answer request centered on that.
How many more voter fraud arrests can we expect to see, asked a member. Schultz said there's only so much he can say.
"It's DCI's investigation now," Schultz said, but that his understanding is, "we expect a lot more coming down the pike."
Last week, a man was convicted of voter fraud in Iowa. He was a felon who voted. After the meeting, Schultz told the Courier that the man was also a Bosnian citizen, not an American. He definitely should not have been voting, the secretary said.
"It's a problem [when voter fraud happens because] it can make a difference in a close election," he told Rotarians.
But he said there's the other side of the coin: True voters can make a difference in a close election for the candidate they choose. To demonstrate his point during a program encouraging young people to vote, Rock Iowa, Schultz and other adults preside over a vote for president at an Iowa school. The candidates are two classmates. Students get to grill the candidates on their position.
After that's all done, half the class is asked to come forward. The other half gets ballots. They are the only ones allowed to vote. Some kids get it right away; that if everyone votes, the results may be very different. Each vote counts, Schultz said.
"I want every eligible person to be able to vote," he said, "with the emphasis on the word eligible."
Rock Iowa is an offshoot of Rock the Vote. Schultz says Republican colleagues warned him that Rock the Vote is a Democrat-backed organization. So what? Schultz said to peers. It wouldn't be his only bi-partisan effort to see something worthwhile take place in Iowa.
"They're trying to get kids to vote. And we want young people to vote," he said.
Schultz talked about the other aspect of his office: interacting with business. In fact, that's what first attracted him to the job.
Businesses that are starting out, expanding or relocating may face a lot of paperwork with government agencies, with banking institutions, landlords and suppliers. But Schultz says he doesn't want individuals feeling discouraged after visiting the Secretary of State's offices.
"I want ... a positive experience for everybody who does business with our office," Schultz said.
He talked about a businessman who said he'd been an hourly worker in a nearby office building. He had ideas about starting a business, but mostly just pondered those ideas — until he went to the office of the Secretary of State. He filed paperwork needed to start a business, went back to work and turned in his two-week notice.
"When he filed the paperwork," said Schultz, "it went from being an idea to something real."
New businesses mean new jobs, the secretary said. With that in mind, he said his office was going to host a month in which fees for new businesses.
"We want people to get off the sidelines," he said.
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark