DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Melbourne man has been charged with election misconduct in a case his attorney says proves the Iowa voting system works without the need for the criminal investigations launched by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz last year.
Nickie Dean Perkins, 52, was charged with election misconduct and fraudulent practice on March 5.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said he registered and voted in the November General Election despite being a convicted felon. A court hearing is set for April 1.
Court records show Perkins pleaded guilty in June 2010 to a charge of possession of a controlled substance and received a suspended sentence and probation.
His attorney Mark Olberding, of Nevada, Iowa, said Perkins thought his voting rights had been restored.
Olberding said that when Perkins went to the polls to vote his name was flagged and the poll workers asked him to cast a provisional ballot.
"If this is going to be the one that shows the system is broke and needs massive fixes, well, it's not. He wasn't able to vote. He got a provisional ballot and it was rejected," Olberding said. "The system worked even without the DCI being involved. He was given a provisional ballot and it was never counted so the entire system worked the way it was supposed to."
Schultz alleges that noncitizens have been registering to vote and in some cases, have cast ballots in Iowa. The first term Republican who took office in 2011 has made voter fraud a priority, proposing controversial new voter registration rules, pushing a voter ID law in the Legislature and using $280,000 from a federal Help America Vote Act grant to hire a DCI agent as part of a two-year investigation. Critics say the state has no such problem and have called the probe a politically motivated waste of money.
"In this frenetic rush to try to prove that there is some basis for the state to spend the millions of dollars it would have to use to implement voter ID, all this investigation has done is to waste state resources and embarrass the state," said Rita Bettis, an lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.
Supporters of Republican-backed efforts to pass voter ID and stricter voter fraud laws in Iowa and elsewhere say they are needed to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Critics say in-person voter fraud is extremely rare, and that such laws amount to a solution in search of a problem. They say the laws are politically motivated and would disproportionately affect groups that tend to back Democrats, including students, the poor and the elderly.
Schultz has said he turned over the names of more than 1,000 potential noncitizens who voted since 2010, after comparing lists of noncitizens with driving permits against those who voted in recent elections. Yet, only 10 people have been charged in Iowa so far and three of those cases were dismissed last week, although charges may be refiled later.
Charges in three Council Bluffs cases were dismissed after prosecutors said a key witness was called to active military duty and couldn't testify.
Only one person has been convicted after he entered a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Jason Rawlin, of Indianola, agreed to plead guilty to fraudulent practice if prosecutors dropped the felony election misconduct charge. He said he misunderstood the law and thought his right to vote had been restored after he was convicted of forgery.
In a separate case, Stacy Brown, accused of registering to vote when obtaining a driver's license, claimed she wasn't paying attention when she affirmed on a document she wasn't a felon. She reached a deferred agreement, meaning the charge will be dismissed in July if she doesn't commit any crimes.
Investigators believe two others have since moved back to Canada, and the another man, a Bosnian citizen living in Clive, awaits a trial scheduled for May for allegedly registering to vote and voting in November 2010.
Authorities also said Tuesday they have charged Jesus Adan Castorena, 64, of Hampton on March 15 with perjury for claiming on 2010 driver's license and voter registration applications that he was U.S. citizen. The documents charging him say he had been deported to Mexico in 2007 by U.S. immigration officials.
He first registered in January 2006 and had changed his political affiliation in 2008 to Democrat from Republican and in 2010 from Democrat to "no party."
Authorities say a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
He becomes the tenth person charged by the DCI under the investigation Schultz started.