More talk, but no action on the Secretary of State’s effort to check the citizenship status of almost 3,600 people who have registered to vote in Iowa.

Secretary of State Matt Schultz has discovered there are 3,582 people who weren’t U.S. citizens when they got their Iowa driver’s license, but they are also registered to vote in Iowa.

He wants to check those names against a federal database to see how many may now be legal U.S. citizens, but there’s no guarantee the feds will grant his request before Election Day, plus his effort’s being challenged in court.

In addition, a state agent from the Division of Criminal Investigation already is investigating whether there’s been voter fraud as about 1,200 of the roughly 3,600 people Schultz identified as possible non-citizen voters cast ballots in the 2010 election.

Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, today said Schultz shouldn’t be using federal “Help America Vote Act” money to pay for that agent’s work.

“My district has the largest concentration of Latinos in the state and as I go door to door in my district…they are scared to death of this,” Courtney said. “…They think you are trying to stop them from voting.”

Schultz said he’s just doing his job as the state official in charge of elections and he rejects the idea it’s an effort to suppress Latino votes.

“You know my wife is Latino. I speak Spanish fluently,” Schultz said. “If you know of a group of individuals, I’d be willing to speak to them in Spanish or in English…The point is not to chill the vote.”

Schultz did a two-year Mormon mission in Argentina where he learned to speak Spanish. During a statehouse hearing this afternoon, Schultz told legislators he has the authority to spend that federal “Help America Vote Act” money on the voter fraud investigation.

Later, Schultz told reporters: “I can tell you it’s better than the $100,000 party our previous secretary of state used HAVA money for.”

A federal audit questioned that 2005 event, organized by former Secretary of State Chet Culver, and the state was forced to repay part of the money.

Earlier this afternoon a legislative committee held what amounted to a public hearing about Schultz’s effort to cross-check the nearly 3,600 names with a federal database to see how many are not citizens and, therefore, not eligible to vote.

Craig Wallace of Clive suggested the whole proposal should be put on hold. “Hey now, let’s get real about it,” Wallace told legislators and Schultz. “You don’t have enough time to get this thing done right this year. If you want to get this thing done, pass it next year or before the next election.”

Beatriz Sandoval of Des Moines became a U.S. citizen in 2008 and she told legislators the secretary of state’s effort seems “threatening” to her.

“I just want to exercise my right to vote,” she said.

No one’s name will be removed from the voter registration rolls this year, as state law prohibits that within 70 days of an election.

If Schultz is able to do his cross-check and discovers some registered voters are not citizens, he will notify county auditors and those individuals will be handed a slip of paper if they try to vote, telling them they need to confirm their citizenship status.

The ballots from those individuals would be set aside and the local panel that reviews challenged ballots would determine if their votes should be counted.

AUDIO of first half of today’s hearing (mp3 runs just over an hour)

AUDIO of second half of today’s hearing (mp3 runs just under an hour)