The voter registration of a former Iowa House District 28 candidate who was in the process of moving from Clive to Sully was canceled this morning by the Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott.
In his ruling to Jon Van Wyk of Sully, Parrott wrote:
“A person’s declaration of residency for voter registration and voting purposes is presumed to be valid unless a preponderance of evidence indicates that another location should be considered the person’s voting residence under the provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 48A.
“On the basis of the evidence submitted, I have found that on the date that you registered to vote, March 7, 2014, you did not meet Iowa Code requirements to be an eligible elector in Jasper County. Therefore I am cancelling your voter registration in Jasper County in accordance with Iowa Code Section 48A.”
Van Wyk registered to vote at same time he turned in his candidacy paperwork with the Iowa Office of Secretary of State. The registration form was signed March 7, but according to time and date stamps, it was received by the Office of Secretary of State on March 10, the Jasper County Auditor’s Office on March 13.
He had admitted, both in an interview with the Daily News on March 18 and in a hearing regarding his voter registration held Thursday at the Jasper County Courthouse, that he did not live at the Sully address yet when he signed the registration form. His candidacy was objected to, and his voter registration was challenged as a result of those residency issues.
His registration listed the address of Van Wijk Winery — his family’s business — in Sully as his home address. Roger Barr and Gabriel Swersie, both of Newton, filed written challenges based on the question of his residency at the time he signed the form.
Parrott presided over Thursday’s challenge hearing. County Attorney Mike Jacobsen and Deputy County Auditor for Elections Tina Mulgrew also took part; Jacobsen dealt with legal issues pertaining to Van Wyk’s registration, while Mulgrew dealt with procedural issues.
Parrott first asked if anyone in attendance wanted to present information or evidence supporting the two challenges to Van Wyk’s registration. No one in attendance represented either of the challengers.
Barr did, however, provide a written statement and evidence via an email sent to the County Auditor’s Office on April 2. No other evidence was presented at the hearing.
Van Wyk was then allowed to make a statement and provide evidence on his own behalf. He opened by stating he believed Barr was “misinformed” about the Van Wijk Winery property in Sully, noting it is zoned residential and has a conditional use permit to allow the business to operate.
He also said he believed the challenges to his voter registration were politically motivated by supporters of State Rep. Greg Heartsill, who he was set to challenge for the Republican Party nomination in House District 28 in the June 3 primary election.
Van Wyk withdrew his candidacy shortly after filing his paperwork after numerous objections were filed with the Office of Secretary of State regarding his residency and use of the Sully address on nomination forms.
He also showed floorplans for Van Wijk Winery, pointing out the location of the residence on the property and saying it wasn’t “just an office with a couch that slides out into a bed.” He likened the business-residential aspects of the property to having a home office in one’s basement.
Van Wyk also presented future plans for the business, which includes the addition of up to six bedrooms and bathrooms as part of a plan to turn Van Wijk Winery into a bed and breakfast. He also showed a real estate listing agreement for his home in Clive and displayed a document he said was a lease agreement for the residence in Sully.
His mother and father, who were both in attendance, confirmed there was a lease agreement that spans from March 1 to Aug. 1 of this year. Van Wyk refused to present it to Parrott, though, objecting to the media’s participation in the public hearing.
The Knoxville Journal-Express and Pella Chronicle were also represented at the meeting.
Jacobsen then asked a number of questions related to the voter registration form, when it was filed, where Van Wyk was living when it was filed, and questions about Van Wyk’s residency and the residency of his family members. Parrott followed up with additional questions about Van Wyk’s residency.
Van Wyk told them that until recently, he stayed at Van Wijk Winery only one or two nights per week. He said the bathroom in the residence there was just completed April 3 or 4 and was not functional prior to that time frame.
During additional questioning, he said filed the registration with the Office of Secretary of State at the same time as his candidacy papers as a means of “[killing] two birds with one stone.” He said he did not know the fixtures to complete the bathroom would not be available for several weeks when he dropped off the papers.
Parrott asked, “Where do you tell people you live?” to which Van Wyk said, “I tell people I live in Sully ... I get mail in Sully.”
Jacobsen then asked if Van Wyk had ever changed his driver’s license to the Sully address. Van Wyk said he was in the process of doing so when his voter registration was challenged, so he stopped to see how the challenge hearing played out before completing the change.
Van Wyk also told Parrott the family intends for up to three residences at the winery, one for he and his family, one for his parents and one for his brother and his family. He said he is working with the U.S. Postal Service to have four separate addresses set up at the winery building.
Parrott then asked a number of questions related to the zoning of the winery property, the conditional use permit and the way the property is being taxed by the City of Sully. Parrott also asked Van Wyk where he primarily slept; Van Wyk said he sleeps primarily in Clive.
Van Wyk summarized his position in a closing statement. He also asked a question of Parrott:
“Is this only looking at where I lived on March 7th, or where I’m living now? Because if you cancel my registration today, what would prevent me from re-registering tomorrow using that exact same address? What’s the difference?”
Parrott concluded the hearing with one last question for Van Wyk, reading directly from the signed affidavit at the bottom of the registration form. He asked, “Did you live at that address (in Sully) on March 7th?”
“Yes, as far as I understand what it means to live someplace,” Van Wyk responded.
Parrott declined to comment further on the hearing or his ruling regarding Van Wyk’s registration. He said a copy of his ruling was sent to Jacobsen.
The voter registration form states in two locations that knowingly providing incorrect information is considered perjury, which is a Class D felony in Iowa. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $7,500 maximum fine.
Jacobsen was not available as of press time to comment.