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Judge Hears Arguments on Voting Rules Lawsuit

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) A district court judge said Friday she will consider whether a lawsuit filed against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz over proposed new voting rules should be dismissed.

Schultz attempted to pass two emergency rules prior to the Nov. 6 general election saying said he feared noncitizens would try to vote. One rule would have challenged votes of individuals who appear on state and federal databases as noncitizens. A second rule would have made it easier to report alleged voter fraud.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa jointly filed a lawsuit in August to stop the rules.

Critics have said the rules would disenfranchise Latinos and other voters ahead of the election in a key battleground state. They also argued that there was not enough time to remove them fairly before the election or safeguards to prevent individuals with similar names from being unfairly targeted.

Polk County District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson stayed the rules and issued in September a temporary injunction, which prevented Schultz from enacting them. She said Schultz should have gone through the normal rule-making process that allowed for public input, and also said he didn't have sufficient reason to justify rushing the rules through an emergency process.

Gunderson said the civil rights groups demonstrated that the voters they represent would have suffered irreparable harm if the rules were pushed through before the election. She also said she'd hear arguments after the election.

On Friday, Gunderson was true to her word, holding a hearing to determine where the case goes next. She said she will rule first on a motion to dismiss the case filed by Schultz.

Schultz's attorney, assistant attorney general Jeff Thompson, said Schultz is pursuing different permanent rules through the regular rulemaking process and the emergency rules case is no longer relevant.

Joseph Glazebrook, who is representing the civil rights groups, argued that until the temporary rules are rescinded or replaced by new rules, the case continues to be relevant.

Thompson said a public hearing will be held in January on the new permanent rules; the earliest they could go into effect is March 13.

Schultz said earlier this week the new rules give anyone targeted for removal from voter registration rolls 30 days to file a challenge instead of 14 days. His office would also be required to send a second notice with another 30-day response period if it does not receive a response to the first. Anyone who receives a letter requesting information on their citizenship would also be allowed to request as much time as needed to comply.

He also dropped a rule that allowed individuals to report allegations of voter fraud without signing a sworn statement that the allegations were true.

On Friday, Gunderson also heard arguments on whether Schultz should be required to appear to testify under oath. He has resisted a motion to appear for depositions.

Thompson said the civil rights groups want to get Schultz to submit to a series of questions about voter fraud and whether it exists, as well as other issues beyond the scope of the lawsuit.

"It's intended to be harassing and an improper fishing expedition on issues that are absolutely unrelated to this case," Thompson said.