Voter fraud investigator produces two more arrests

The full-time voter fraud investigator hired by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz produced his second batch of arrests yesterday. In contrast to the first group of people charged (alleged non-citizens who had voted), the latest arrests involve two convicted felons who registered to vote this year but have not cast ballots.

The official affidavits don’t include any evidence that these people intended to vote unlawfully. One believed his voting rights had been restored, while the other claimed she wasn’t paying attention to what was on the voter registration form she signed. Details are after the jump.

Excerpt from the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s October 4 press release (emphasis in original):

A DCI investigation has resulted in two individuals being charged with Election Fraud, a Class D Felony, and Fraudulent Practices, an Aggravated Misdemeanor.  Those charged are 37 year old Jason Anthony Rawlin of Indianola, Iowa, and 37 year old Stacy Rae Brown of Kanawha, Iowa.

According to criminal complaints filed, Jason Rawlin and Stacy Rae Brown are previously convicted felons who registered to vote while obtaining state issued driver’s licenses and or identification cards.  Jason Rawlin is a previously convicted felon in Wapello County, Iowa and registered to vote in Warren County.  Stacy Rae Brown is a previously convicted felon in Hancock County, Iowa and registered to vote in Hancock County through the Wright County Issuance Station.

Complaint and Affidavit

Jason Rawlin was arrested by the Indianola Police Department and was released on bail.  Stacy Rae Brown turned herself in to law enforcement today and was booked into the Wright County Jail and released on her own recognizance.

This investigation was conducted through the cooperative efforts of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Warren County Attorney’s Office and the Wright County Attorney’s Office. […]

It should be noted a criminal charge is merely an accusation and all suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The Complaint and Affidavit (pdf) provide more details about the probe by Daniel Dawson, the Department of Criminal Investigation agent retained by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office in August to look into alleged voter fraud for the next two years. Excerpt:

On September 18th, 2012, I was notified by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office of an individual who registered to vote whom [sic] was possibly a convicted felon. The Hancock County Auditor’s Office came upon information that a Stacy Rae Brown was a convicted felon and had registered to vote while obtaining a driver’s license with the Wright County Treasurer’s Office.

I then obtained the Iowa DOT record of application for an Iowa Non-Operator ID card as it related to Stacy Brown. The application was dated September 7th, 2012 and was processed at the Wright County Issuance Station in Clarion, Iowa. Accompanied with the application was an affidavit of name change application. In the application Brown noted she had previously been known by the names of “Stacy Rae Eckhoff.” The application was supported by a marriage license filed on June 19th, 2012 in Hancock County, Iowa.

I then ran a check of Stacy Rae Brown’s criminal history and noted a felony conviction in Hancock County. I contacted the Hancock County Clerk of Courts and obtained the judgment entries for Stacy Rae Brown. I found that on September 22nd, 2009, “Stacy Rae Eckhoff” entered a guilty plea for Possession of Anhydrous Ammonia, Iowa Code Section 124.401(4)(d), a felony conviction.

I then interviewed Stacy Brown. Brown initially told me she couldn’t register to vote because she was a felon. When I asked her to recall if she asked to register to vote when she obtained her driver’s license in Wright County, Brown told me she probably told the clerk yes. Brown went on to explain she was in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention [to] what she was signing or the signage she was asked to read as it related to registering to vote.

I concluded that on September 7th, 2012, Stacy Rae Brown, made entry on a public voter registration document which she knew to be false. By making such entry, did knowingly and willingly made [sic] application in Wright County to register to vote in within [sic] Hancock County, and on said application, swore and affirmed she was not a convicted felon, a statement which she knew to be materially false, and a registration for which he [sic] was not qualified and ineligible for.

While voter registration fraud is a crime, it doesn’t sound like Brown intended to vote. On the contrary, she had the impression that as a convicted felon, she couldn’t even register to vote.

A spokeswoman with the Department of Criminal Investigation could not provide further details to me yesterday regarding Brown’s felony conviction, such as whether she served prison time and if so, when she completed her sentence. If she completed any such sentence before mid-January 2011, I would think that her voting rights would have been restored under former Governor Tom Vilsack’s 2005 executive order. Governor Terry Branstad reversed that order immediately after his inauguration.

Excerpt from Dawson’s affidavit in the other case announced yesterday:

On August 28th, 2012, I was notified by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office of an individual who registered to vote whom [sic] was possibly a convicted felon. The Warren County Auditor’s Office came upon information that a Jason Allen Rawlin was a convicted felon and had registered to vote while obtaining a driver’s license with the Warren County Treasurer’s Office.

I then obtained the Iowa DOT record of application for an Iowa Non-Operator ID card as it related to Jason Rawlin. The application was dated August 2nd, 2012 and was processed at the Warren County Issuance Station in Warren County, Iowa. Accompanied with the application was an Affidavit of Name Change Application. In the application Rawlin noted he had previously been known by the names of “Francis Allen Rawlins” and “Francis Allen Rawlin”.

I then ran a check of Francis Allen Rawlin’s criminal history and noted multiple felony convictions in Wapello County. I contacted the Wapello County Clerk of Courts and obtained the judgment entries for Jason Rawlin. I found that on December 15, 2005, in the District Court of and for Wapello County, “Francis Allen Rawlin Jr” entered a plea of guilty for the crime fo Forgery as a Habitual Offender, Iowa Code Sections 715A.1, 715A.2, 902.8, and 902.9 a felony conviction.

I then interviewed Jason Rawlin at his residence. Rawlin stated he underwent a name change when he recently was married. Rawlin acknowledged he was a felon but stated he believed his rights were restored upon release from prison after a 2001 felony conviction. Rawlin stated there should be signage posted within the licensing station to let people know if they can or can’t vote. I then reminded Rawlin that there was an instruction notice posted next to the digital key pad which Rawlin stated he was busy, there was a line of people behind him, and he signed it so he could leave.

I concluded that on August 2nd, 2012, Jason Allen Rawlin, made entry on a public voter registration document which he knew to be false. By making such entry, did knowingly and willingly make application to register to vote within Warren County, and on said application, swore and affirmed he was not a convicted felon, a statement which he knew to be materially false, and a registration for which he was not qualified and ineligible for.

Again, I was unable to confirm yesterday when Rawlin completed whatever time he may have served for his 2005 felony conviction. From this affidavit, it appears that he was under the impression that his voting rights had been restored. I would assume the same, unless he had not yet completed his sentence before Branstad created the process under which almost no convicted felons have regained their right to vote.

The three people arrested and charged with election misconduct last month in Council Bluffs also didn’t appear to believe they had done anything wrong.

I see the political value in a steady stream of arrests and charges related to alleged voter fraud. Schultz has drawn criticism for his focus on this problem. Earlier this week, Democratic State Senator Tom Courtney formally requested state and federal audits into the use of federal Help America Vote Act funding to pay for a full-time voter fraud investigator in the Secretary of State’s office. If I were Dawson, I’d want to demonstrate that I was making steady progress working on a real crime problem.

However, without proof of intent to vote illegally, I suspect the cases against Brown and Rawlin will hit the same legal “roadblock” described in this September 23 Associated Press story, related to the earlier arrests in Council Bluffs.

Election misconduct is a class D felony punishable with up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine. […]

Juries may be reluctant to convict suspects if they believe they simply made a mistake and thought they were eligible to vote, according to defense lawyers, who note the law requires the actions to be “willful.” […]

Records released from Schultz’s office to The Associated Press, for instance, show that a noncitizen in Iowa Falls voted last year but was not prosecuted, and Schultz’s own lawyer wrote that the man did not commit any “intentional wrongdoing that could be classified to the level of ‘fraudulent’.” Mistaken local elections officials allowed him to vote after he provided his alien registration number on his green card.

“I did not get the impression that there was any intent to vote in a fraudulent manner,” an Iowa Falls police captain wrote in February.

In Linn County, home to Cedar Rapids, County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden has declined to bring charges against a few persons who mistakenly voted twice during recent elections. The county auditor sought prosecution, but Vander Sanden replied in emails that those voters had “no criminal intent” to cast absentee ballots and vote a second time at the polls. He said they cherished their voting rights and had “a good faith belief” that their absentee ballots hadn’t been received.

“I am not going to charge someone with a felony because they made an innocent mistake,” he wrote in July. “It is not so much a matter of cost as it is fairness and the proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

  • You are quite generous

    describing this as a “batch” or “steady stream” of arrests. As far as fishing expeditions go, Schultz is coming back with minnows.

    It’s time for Schultz to go after the big fish — the college students registered in Iowa and Illinois. I want to see some white collar crime! C’mon, Matt, no more crystal meth losers — bad teeth makes for poor PR. Round up the fresh faces who are committing crimes with their dual registrations. Give the upper-middle class parents the wedgie they deserve! Stand up to the corruption in Illinois and make clear that Iowa will not harbor young criminals.

    • Clean up

      I don’t necessarily agree with Schultz on this, but as someone who has worked for Chris Dodd as a volunteer and the Kerry-Edwards campaign there are a lot of dead people on the voter rolls here in Keokuk and a lot of people who have moved to another address, not saying this has anything to do with fraud, but it does show that the voter lists aren’t always ideally kept up.  

    • Students attending Iowa colleges can vote in Iowa

      If a college student from Illinois is going to school and living in Iowa, they can legally register and vote in Iowa. If they were previously registered in Illinois, they only have to include their previous registration address on the Iowa registration form. They are not supposed to vote in both states. There should be a process to notify the auditor in Illinois where they were previously registered so they can be dropped from the Illinois voter roles. I don’t know if that process is in place or functioning.

      • yes

        But Schultz isn’t digging into every college student’s background to make sure he or she didn’t vote in Iowa as well as in his/her home state. Just like Schultz isn’t prying into every snowbird’s life to make sure he/she didn’t vote absentee in Iowa and then in person on election day in the sun belt state where the second home is located. This is a very selective approach to solving the voter fraud “problem.”

  • It is sad

    that the root of these “busts” is ill-fated attempts at re/integration with community. The foreign-born thought they could participate in local elections. Former felons are filling out voter apps — isn’t that a good thing?

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