AMES, Iowa — Iowa's secretary of state rebuked Ted Cruz's presidential campaign on Saturday for controversial mailers that told voters they had committed a "voting violation" by not voting.
"Today I was shown a piece of literature from the Cruz for President campaign that misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law," Paul Pate, the Iowa secretary of state, said in a statement distributed by his office. "Accusing citizens of Iowa of a 'voting violation' based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act. There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses."
The mailers, sent out to some Iowa voters ahead of the caucuses by Cruz's campaign, are marked "VOTING VIOLATION" and list people's names in addition to their neighbors', with "grades" attached based on their voting participation record, calling on them to caucus to "improve your score." Some Iowans tweeted photos of the mailers on Friday, drawing attention from people on Twitter due to the aggressive nature of the mail. The Cruz campaign confirmed on Friday that it had sent the mailers.
At the bottom of the mailer, the text says "Voting registration and voter history records are public records distributed by the Iowa Secretary of State and/or county election clerks. This data is not available for use for commercial purposes — use is limited by law. Scores reflect participation in recent elections."
In the statement sent out on Saturday, Pate, a Republican, said those claims are false.
"Additionally, the Iowa Secretary of State's Office never 'grades' voters," Pate said in the statement. "Nor does the Secretary of State maintain records related to Iowa Caucus participation. Caucuses are organized and directed by the state political parties, not the Secretary of State, nor local elections officials. Also, the Iowa Secretary of State does not 'distribute' voter records. They are available for purchase for political purposes only, under Iowa Code.”
Cruz told reporters in Sioux City on Saturday evening that "I will apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote."
Cruz's campaign issued a statement on Saturday afternoon, saying the type of mailer they used is "common practice."
"These mailers are common practice to increase voter turnout," said Matt Schultz, the Cruz campaign's Iowa state chairman and former Iowa secretary of state. "Our mailer was modeled after the very successful 2014 mailers that the Republican Party of Iowa distributed to motivate Republican voters to vote, and which helped elect numerous Republican candidates during that cycle.”
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Cruz cited Schultz's statement and said "we are going to continue to use every tool we can to encourage the men and women of Iowa to come out to caucus Monday night and stand together as one."