Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been trying to drum up support for his Presidential campaign, and some of his tactics have been … odd. Most recently, he mailed letters to people in Iowa accusing them of “voting violations” and having “poor voting scores.” Doing that incurred the wrath of Paul Pate, the Secretary of State for Iowa. He was livid that Cruz would distribute literature “that misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law.” For starters, contrary to the claims of said literature, voting is not mandatory in Iowa or anywhere else in the United States.
One such letter read:
“You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.”
Pate went on to explain that there is no such thing as “voter violations” that have to do with frequency of voting. His office also does not “grade” voters or keep records about how many times they vote in the Iowa Caucus. Nor does the Office of the Secretary of State distribute voter records. People can buy them — but only in accordance with the Iowa Code. Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist, noted that “social pressure stuff” only works when it’s subtle. Cruz’s attempt at forcing people to vote for him, however, was like a “sledgehammer” and probably only encouraged people to vote for other candidates. Indeed, one voter, Tom Hinkeldoy, was so disgusted that he announced his intention to vote for Marco Rubio instead.
A professor of political science at the University of North Iowa, Christopher Larimer, noted that while “get out the vote” mailings that call attention to people’s voting history and that of their neighbors can encourage voter turnout, the negative and threatening tone of the Cruz letters made it likely they would backfire. In addition, the parties keep the records of the caucus turnouts private. That means, the Cruz campaign won’t have access to those records and wouldn’t be able to send out the threatened follow-up notices.
As of Saturday, Cruz has refused to apologize for sending out the letters. He has said he sees nothing wrong with encouraging Iowa citizens to vote. Despite the contretemps over the letters, Cruz secured more votes than any other Republican in the caucus, even beating out the national front-runner, Donald Trump, who came in second. Many evangelical voters preferred Cruz over the other candidates. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida placed third. Iowa has 30 Republican delegates, and Cruz won eight of them. Trump and Rubio both secured seven, Ben Carson won three, and the remaining candidates each gained one. Of the 2472 delegates available, a candidate needs to gain at least 1237 to secure the nomination. While winning in Iowa can give a candidate momentum to stay in the election, it does not guarantee victory. Republican candidates in particular have crashed and burned later in the election despite a victory in Iowa. In 2012, for example, Rick Santorum had won in Iowa only to lose the nomination to Mitt Romney.