Iowa won't have to repay HAVA funds used for voter fraud investigations

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has determined that spending $240,000 on criminal investigations of voter fraud in Iowa was an “allowable, allocable and reasonable” use of federal Help America Vote Act funds, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press today. I enclose the commission’s two-page memorandum of August 13 after the jump (hat tip to Foley). A spokesman for the commission told the AP “he wasn’t aware of other states using HAVA funding for similar investigations.”

Former Secretary of State Matt Schultz made battling voter fraud a major theme of his four years in office. The full-time investigator, pulled from other work at the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations, turned up a few examples of improper registration and voting but no evidence of any large-scale voter fraud problem. Democratic State Senator Tom Courtney was among the leading critics of Schultz’s use of HAVA funds for that purpose. In October 2012, he requested state and federal audits of the matter. Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins announced in December 2013 that his office’s review could not determine whether criminal investigations were a proper or improper use of HAVA funds. He advised the Secretary of State’s Office to “have a plan in place” in case Iowa needed to repay the money to the federal government later.

The commission’s ruling is a lucky break for Schultz, who was elected Madison County attorney last November after losing the GOP primary in the third Congressional district. He’s keeping busy now as state chair for Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. When Schultz seeks higher office again, he can claim he was vindicated in using federal funds to investigate fraud.

For those wondering why it took federal officials so long to consider Iowa’s use of HAVA money: because Senate Republicans refused to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominees, the Election Assistance Commission didn’t have the necessary quorum to take any official actions from 2010 until January of this year, when three new commissioners were sworn in. Senators had confirmed them during the December 2014 lame-duck session of Congress as part of a large bloc of nominees approved by unanimous consent.

UPDATE: Added below a statement from Courtney urging Secretary of State Paul Pate “to formally pledge not to use federal funds for any future voter purge effort” and to make clear “that Iowa is no longer one of the states where election officials use tax dollars to suppress voter turnout.”

SECOND UPDATE: Schultz told the AP, “This was always about improving the administration of elections.” Rita Bettis, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, called it “truly troublesome for our national democracy” that Schultz’s “model of voter intimidation can now be exported to other states ahead of the 2016 General Election.”

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IA-03: Matt Schultz still posturing as hero battling "voter fraud"

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz just can’t quit the fantasy that he has saved Iowans from a major “voter fraud” problem. A new report from the Secretary of State’s Office may serve as a welcome distraction from his record of keeping some political appointees on the payroll, but it distorts the reality of election irregularities and ignores more important factors that keep some eligible voters from having their ballots count in Iowa elections.

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Matt Schultz spins voter fraud acquittal as success

Most people familiar with the criminal justice system understand that a jury acquittal after less than an hour is an embarrassing loss for the prosecutor and a sign that the case should never have come to trial.

Then there’s Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Having spent major political capital (not to mention hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars) to spin simple errors into grand criminal conspiracies, he managed to claim victory yesterday when a Lee County jury declared an ineligible voter not guilty of perjury.

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State Auditor's office will examine Schultz's use of HAVA funds

Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins will investigate Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s use of Help America Vote Act funding, William Petroski reported today for the Des Moines Register. Democratic State Senator Tom Courtney requested the audit immediately after Governor Terry Branstad appointed Mary Mosiman as state auditor last month. Mosiman’s predecessor, David Vaudt, did not act on Courtney’s request for an audit last year. Schultz has used federal HAVA funding to pay for a law enforcement officer charged with investigating alleged voter fraud full-time. Courtney contends that such a use falls outside federal law, which calls for HAVA funds to cover “educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights and voting technology.”

Mosiman delegated the audit to Jenkins because until last month, she was working as Schultz’s deputy in charge of the Secretary of State’s elections office.

Please share any relevant comments in this thread. After the jump I’ve posted reaction from Schultz and Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson.

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Senator asks new auditor to investigate Secretary of State's use of federal funds

State Senator Tom Courtney has asked newly appointed Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman to conduct “a special audit of the use of HAVA (Help America Vote Act) funds by Secretary of State Matt Schultz.” Courtney has been a leading critic of Schultz’s policies to combat alleged voter fraud. He previously asked State Auditor David Vaudt and the federal Office of Inspector General to look into Schultz’s use of HAVA funds to pay for criminal investigations. Courtney points out that federal funding is intended for “educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights and voting technology.”

An Iowa Senate press release containing background on Courtney’s request is after the jump, along with the full text of Courtney’s letter to Mosiman. She would presumably have to assign a different staff member of the Auditor’s office to conduct any inquiry, since she’s worked for Schultz for more than two years, running the Secretary of State’s Office elections division. Mosiman has publicly defended Schultz’s policies on alleged voter fraud, including photo ID requirements that most Iowa county auditors oppose.

The criminal investigations have so far uncovered a few allegedly improper voter registrations by ex-felons and a few instances of non-citizens allegedly registering to vote or casting ballots in local or state elections. To my knowledge, those charges have not led to any convictions yet. Three cases of alleged wrongful voting by non-citizens were dropped in March because the investigating DCI agent was called up for active military duty.

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