As we all know, the tide of voter ID and other measures to restrict the franchise is typically justified by its conservative proponents as necessary to combat a vast threat of voter fraud. In most court cases involving individual state laws,voter fraud enthusiasts have been found to come to the table of justice empty-handed. Even more famously, a five-year nationwide effort by the Bush administration’s Justice Department to discover and prosecute voter fraud produced 120 indictments and 86 convictions. Wow.

But now, Iowa’s secretary of state–who is running for Congress–put the pedal to the metal in a voter fraud investigation in that hyper-political state, and is boasting of dramatic findings, as reported by the Des Moines Register‘s John Noble:

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s two-year investigation into voter fraud found evidence of 117 illegally cast votes, led to charges against 27 suspected fraudulent voters and has resulted in six criminal convictions, according to a report released Thursday.

Those results justified the unprecedented partnership between the state’s top election official and the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, as well as the nearly $250,000 cost of the effort, Schultz, a Republican, said.

“The takeaway is that there are people who voted who weren’t supposed to,” he said. “This is a situation where we tried to do something about it. I think it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.”

Critics have called the investigation a misuse of federal funds intended to expand access to voting and charged that the six convictions prove that voter fraud is a miniscule problem in a state where statewide voter turnout frequently exceeds 1 million.

In some cases, the investigations found more evidence of unjustified denial of voting rights than of voter fraud:

Investigators scrutinized 68 felons who were suspected of registering and voting when their rights hadn’t been restored. Those investigations yielded 16 charges brought by local prosecutors. The effort also identified 20 former felons whose rights should have been restored but had been denied at the ballot box. All 20 have since had their rights restored.

This is almost certainly the best conservatives can do in documenting voter fraud, with a public official making this his signature issue and bending every resource available to the Cause. Schultz is a very persistent mouse, and he’ll continue to roar about his success in exposing the terrible plague of voter fraud. But in the large context of efforts to lay land mines around the ballot box and discourage voting, his squeaks are not persuasive.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.