DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa's new state auditor said Friday her office will investigate whether it was proper for Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz to use federal funds intended to improve election procedures to hire a state agent for voter fraud inquiries.
Auditor Mary Mosiman said her office will examine whether Help America Vote Act grants were properly used by Schultz to hire an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent to pursue possible voter fraud cases.
Mosiman's spokesman Bernardo Granwehr said the investigation will be led by Chief Deputy Auditor Warren Jenkins because the auditor had served as Schultz's deputy of elections until her appointment last month to auditor by Gov. Terry Branstad.
Mosiman said the investigation would be done as quickly as possible.
Schultz has alleged noncitizens were registering to vote and in some cases voting in Iowa. He used $280,000 from the federal program to launch a two-year investigation. Critics, including Democratic State Sen. Tom Courtney, argued that the state has little history of voter fraud and that the effort was a waste of money.
Courtney said Help American Vote Act funds are to be used only for education about voting procedures, rights and technology. “It was improper for Secretary of State Schultz to take federal funds intended to help Iowans vote and spend those dollars instead on a voter fraud goose chase,” Courtney said in a statement.
Schultz said in a statement that the proper and fair administration of elections in Iowa is his responsibility as the chief elections official. “Iowans deserve clean and honest elections. We continue to believe that the investigation expenditures are an appropriate use of HAVA funds ... as they are being used to improve the administration of federal elections,” he said.
Schultz has said he turned over to the DCI agent names of more than 1,000 potential noncitizens who voted since 2010, after comparing lists of noncitizens with driving permits against those who voted in recent elections.
So far, 10 people have been charged as the result of the DCI investigations. Of those, charges have been dropped against three people in Council Bluffs. Two people who say they unintentionally registered to vote even though they had felony convictions have entered plea agreements with prosecutors. Three others await trials and two individuals pursued by the agent are believed to have moved back to Canada.
In a letter from Mosiman to Courtney, the auditor said her office will investigate because the federal agency responsible for administering HAVA money, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, lacks enough appointed members to constitute a quorum.
The organization is supposed to have four commissioners nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but it hasn't had any commissioners since December 2011.
House Republicans have called for abolishing the commission, and this week the Committee on House Administration approved a bill to terminate the organization.
With no members, the commission's chief operating officer is overseeing the staff, which manages certification of voting systems and sends out checks to pay states grant money.
The commission has distributed $3.2 billion in grants under HAVA, created after the troubled 2000 presidential election to help election officials ensure the integrity of federal elections and improve voter access at the polls. It has $56 million left to be distributed.
Without commissioners, however, the agency cannot advise states on the use of the vote act funds and has told Courtney it would not look further into Schultz's use of the federal grant money.
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