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Polk County auditor will decide if the Iowa Senate majority leader's voter registration is valid

jack whitver
John Pemble
IPR file
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver's voter registration is being challenged.

A Grimes resident and her attorney told the Polk County Auditor in a hearing Wednesday that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver’s voter registration should be canceled because he allegedly does not live at the address where he is registered to vote.

Whitver, a Republican, has lived in Ankeny with his wife and kids for several years and represented an Ankeny-based Senate district. After redistricting, Whitver chose to run this year in a new district that does not include his family’s Ankeny home.

On August 8, Whitver changed his voter registration to show the address of a condominium in Grimes, in his new Senate district.

Ann Gale of Grimes filed a voter registration challenge in November, saying Whitver doesn’t actually live there. She said the citizens of Iowa Senate District 23 deserve to be represented by someone who cares enough about the district to live in it.

“I think that even state senators should follow the law like the rest of us,” Gale said. “Either the rules and laws apply to everybody, or they apply to no one.”

The Iowa Constitution requires candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives to reside in the district they’re running in for at least 60 days before Election Day. A report from TV stations KCCI and KCRG raised questions about whether Whitver satisfied that requirement.

But the Polk County Auditor will only consider whether Whitver’s voter registration is valid and whether it should be canceled.

Ann Gale speaks at a hearing at the polk county election office
Katarina Sostaric
Grimes resident Ann Gale speaks at a hearing in Des Moines where she challenged Sen. Jack Whitver's voter registration.

Shayla McCormally, Gale’s attorney, presented water bills she said prove Whitver didn’t live in Grimes even though he was registered to vote there.

“Even if he minimally slept there—he’d brush his teeth, he’d go to the bathroom—something would happen,” McCormally said. “Even if he still chose to spend a significant amount of time with his family in their Ankeny home, there would be some indication that the property was used and not that it was vacant.”

The water bills show no water usage before the bill that covers the period from Sept. 9 to Oct. 10. That bill shows 1,000 gallons of water were used at the Grimes condo during that month. McCormally said that is a lot less than the average American’s water use.

McCormally also said Polk County records show Whitver did not vote in the November election or the June primary, even though he voted in every election dating back to 2004.

Charlie Smithson, who said he was not acting in his capacity as Secretary of the Senate, represented Whitver at Wednesday’s hearing. Whitver was not present.

Smithson said Whitver moved to the Grimes condominium on Sept. 4, and he provided utility bills that show increasing usage in September, October and early November.

“He also has several pages showing a technology thing called Apple Maps location display various times at night that show that he was at the condominium...which was used as his primary nighttime residence,” Smithson said.

He provided dozens of images that appear to show screenshots of the Apple Maps app on a cell phone showing the location of the person holding the phone at the address of the Grimes condo from September through November at various times of the day and night.

Smithson also argued Iowa’s voter registration law has “a very permissive standard” for declaring residence for the purpose of voter registration.

He said Whitver’s wife and three kids still live in Ankeny, but he said this is just about Whitver.

“That’s an issue for Jack Whitver and his spouse,” Smithson said. “That is not an issue for the government to step in and say, ‘Why did you move and your wife and kids stayed somewhere else?’”

At the end of the hearing, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, a Democrat, did not say when he will issue a decision on the request to cancel Whitver’s voter registration. He said such hearings are rare, and this was the first time he held one in his 15 years in office.

Fitzgerald's decision can be appealed in Polk County District Court.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter