July 24, 2014

State Senator asks for audit of federal money used to check for illegal voters

The Democrat chair of the Iowa Senate’s Government Oversight Committee is asking for state and federal audits of Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s use of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to pay a state DCI agent to investigate possible voter fraud.

It’s another move in a legal battle over Schultz’s attempt to remove illegal voters from the voter rolls after he discovered nearly 3,600 people who appeared to have voted illegally according to D.O.T. records. A judge ruled that Schultz had to stop trying to crosscheck those D.O.T. records with a federal immigration list after a lawsuit was filed.

And now Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, says Schultz should not use the HAVA funds to pay the DCI to investigate.

“That’s illegal, he can’t do that, he can’t use that money for that,” Courtney says. hat money was not intended for that, that money was intended to help counties and cities get their voting more in order, and that kind of thing. There’s specifics that that money was set up for.”

Courtney says there is a state advisory committee that is supposed to decide how the HAVA money is used.”I don’t think they’ve ever met under this governor, I don’t think that group has ever met to decide how the HAVA money should be used. And so I believe that he should not be using this money for that, and I have asked him to cease using it immediately for that purpose,” Courtney says.

The DCI arrested three people in Pottawattamie County and charged them with voting illegally as they are not U.S. citizens after following up on information from Schultz’s office. Courtney’s news release announcing his action asks Schultz to “end all aspects of his voter purge campaign.”

He told Radio Iowa the timing of Schultz’s action is a concern. “I think that looking for people who shouldn’t be voting is fine, I mean I think that is fine. I think he should have started it two years ago. That’s one of my issues with this. I don’t believe that there’s time to get it sorted out,” Courtney explained.

He says he is also concerned that Scott County requested information on possible illegal voters from Schultz and the Secretary of State would not give them that information. “I just think that his thing that he is doing right now is wrongheaded and I think that there are better ways to do this. And I definitely don’t think he should be using federal money that is intended for another purpose, for that purpose,” Courtney says.

 Schultz did tell legislators earlier this year during a hearing that he has the authority to spend HAVA money on the voter fraud investigation.

A spokesman for Schultz said he is traveling in western Iowa today and issued this statement:

“I am deeply disappointed with Senator Tom Courtney’s political grandstanding today in calling for federal and state audits of the Secretary of State’s office simply because he disagrees with efforts to remove non-citizens from Iowa’s voter rolls. Senator Courtney is attempting to do everything within his power to prevent DCI from conducting their investigations, which have already resulted in election misconduct charges against non-citizens who have been voting in Iowa.” “The proper and fair administration of elections in the State of Iowa is my responsibility as the chief elections official. Iowans deserve clean and honest elections. Shame on Tom Courtney for trying to block criminal investigations into voter fraud and election misconduct,” Schultz concluded. The Secretary of State’s office has stated that the investigation expenditures are an appropriate use of HAVA funds, under Title 1, as they are being used to improve the administration of federal elections.”